Thursday, January 20, 2011

Transformative Language: An Inner and Outer Sense of Justice (2/3)

An Inner and Outer Sense of Justice
On the Transformative Language Arts Conference, and then some…

(see prior entry: Transformative Langauge part 1)

"Kheuta: an inner and outer sense of justice."
"Where language and naming are power,
Silence is oppression,
is violence." - Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence

"It is possible that I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through
and no space:
every thing is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don't have much knowledge yet in grief -
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master, make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me
and my great grief cry will happen to you."

- Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly

In all honesty, I think the poem chooses me, and I’m not quite sure if it’s just a human penchant towards finding meaning where none actually exists, but nonetheless… Rainer Maria Rilke seemed to appropriately summarize what I was going through at that point in my life. And it didn’t take me long to grow entranced with my own discontent there, muddled deep down in the “stuff that matters,” the psychological catch-up. The economic chutes and ladders. I remember walking into the conference, thinking how desperately I wanted a cigarette, and yet I didn’t see anyone else smoking. Exaggerated malcontent. Peer pressure. I noticed the age gap. I noticed how fervently they believed in what they were doing - and in the cynically romantic way I lived in that moment, I didn’t realize that I was living a life where I didn’t believe in anything. I both sought out their guidance and resented their degrees. I didn’t want to keep feeling the need to defend the negligence of my physical age. I felt tired and small, worrisome and overloaded. I felt overambitious and unenthused. I kept pressing my pen to the paper, only to discover the faucet was tapped – there would be nothing coming out. And yet again,

"birds sing to call us back from our many deaths" and Kim Rosen’s voice floats inwards, towards the “psychic,” as the mind is called, and immerses me in the sadness of my own creative expiration, the rejuvenation in the movement of phrases, the hope in simply clicking into the rhythms, listening to tone and accumulation.

Yes, the same old story plays itself out again: artist seeks a community, an abandoned child seeks love, a beaten down woman seeks redemption when even she cannot forgive herself.

the air is charged with unsafe syllables, I begin to write in my notebook,

echo of the children's murder, I continue,

one house wall crumbling beside the next,
brethren in war.
All the mirrors elongate their eyes for
the shoulders that are still searching
for their shadows. How beautiful the
apocalypse of an unexpected moment
To grow up constantly measuring one's feet,
arching backwards, looking forwards,
leaving every surface untamed. The mirrors
hang their heavy heads on the lightposts,
curling around the lonesome tongues
peddling for the scraps of creation. So many
homeless phrases, texts crawling forward from
the sewers, the gutters in our veins. How
desperately we have been betrayed by our
silence, bound by the ellipses curling our
toes. Stumbling forward from the timid
ache of realization, the trauma of
the cold sun that yearns to break the frost.
These children have beckoned the seasons...

Yes, the rare unburdened moments of natural breathing upon paper, my body guiding my hands to write as Kim Rosen slides through her “poetry dive.” My notebook knowingly shoulders the truth I only barely admit:

"How I do not trust the world to provide for me,
the lungs of hypocrisy.
So curious, the strangers of fear..."

And yet, my mouth places the filler in the gaps a few months later: My life purpose is to live validating love, effortlessly helping myself and others….

It’s a tall task, I’ll say on the phone, and I’m competitive – I just want to view it as a goal at first, something that can be checked off a to-do list, accomplished in a liner “if… then” fashion. As if life was that simple, but remember:

“I can’t fake it. I get afraid. I get afraid they’re going to take it all away from me again – that I’m going to let them. I’m afraid of opening myself up for the loss. I’m human. I’m not perfect. And these are scary sentiments for me to admit, no matter how simplistic and obvious they may be. But it’s shut me down.”

It was easy, natural to begin cupping myself into the pockets of my own loneliness - a word perhaps ill-advised for the sentiment. Independent: another inaccurate word. But there I stood like a beacon, pushing everyone out so that I could let the words come in. One night, half-desperate to break my own silence, I huddled in a corner with laptop in hand, alternating between crying and staring into the blinking white screen. People walked by, and I clutched to my silence, attempting to strangle the truth out of it. A forceful liberation for a self-learned abuse. Feeling like they all looked at me as if I was something meaningful (a message of the future of writing, a message of transformation, a message to be dismissed, but a message nonetheless), rather than a younger person grappling with the frustrations of my own healing. I came from the mental health profession in the sense that my own mental health was of utmost importance, and writing is something that has helped this - and writing is a profession that I always seem to swivel back to. And again, different than the majority of people who can consolidate and simultaneously extend.

We must be bigger than the sound, but smaller than the ego." I scribble in one corner amongst all the pieces of paper flung together in my folder. But I do not share most of what I’ve written – the word absurd seems to stick and knead itself into the majority of my experiences there.

Absurd: a lot of my time spent within the conference was divided into the two minds of the modern society - torn between self-nurturing, and the mechanical self-seeking mind that tries to motivate oneself to survive, the careerist. This is to say: I spent a lot of time out of my body and in my head. I divulged the words, the paths, the college, in isolation. I purposely splintered off, living a life at whole, in general, something akin to this: How to Be Alone. I spent my precious moments during the POW (Power of Words) conference searching for, as the video states it, "peace and salvation." And, considering the reflective nature of writing, it was not hard to splinter off and be reflective and let the understanding pool around me. "Lonely is healing if you make it."

"a lovemaking, not a conquering" - it sticks with me, even though I forget who said it. "Most of my dreams are of fear,” I reveal anonymously, hidden amongst the pack of dream-weavers, “distant,” I reinforce, “- I am running away from, falling out of, failing. There is rarely a dream I have that I want to be dreaming. Nightmares."

“Lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind. A woman like that is not a woman, quite” - and, as Kim Rosen instructs us to come prepared with our favorite poem, to practice memorization, I catch myself proclaiming: “I have been her kind”. Yes, “I have ridden in your cart, driver, waved my nude arms at villages going by, learning the last bright routes, survivor where your flames still bite my thigh”


“and my ribs crack where your wheels wind”

so loud, these labels

“A woman like that is not ashamed to die”

I am pumping back and forth on the swingset – age, sex, gender, education, survivor? victim? survivor? victim?

“I have been her kind.”


I am responsible for every moment, every response – and I spend the majority of the conference stuck in my own consciousness, debating these labels as if measuring my own importance by the amount of checkmarks I fail to meet. I could not say anything glamorous about the conference, if you asked me - but, to be honest, I could not fully convince myself to say anything towards any thing with a gushing amount of praise. I could tell you that rather than poetry, I got lost in the linguistics of my existence – the politics behind my presence. I saw what I wasn’t rather than what I was, I saw the ghost of my perfectionism, and embodied it. I moved around singularly, cautiously, jaded - cynical in the sense I believe that to the greater extent, the change must come within me - and as an ex once said to me, "Anything you got out of this was all you."

But I can say that the reason I did attend the conference was to be me, which is to say it was to make beauty from my pain, and it was to remind myself that I have choices - each one of these aspects phenomena within themselves.

Every atom of me wanted to understand why I kept circling towards pain, this conference: another manifestation of my struggling, every moment a seizure-split between beauty and chaos.

Transformative Language part 3

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