Tuesday, July 29, 2008

B'more Girl, Ohio Girl

Lately, I've been thinking about humble---a blog certainly isn't, but it's a way I try to live (I know, I know says my inner drama queen), but there is a shy and modest streak in me somewhere. I saw it at the OAR concert---shocked to see teenage girls running around so close to naked and yes, now I'm starting to be "I never dressed that way when I was that young!" (I waited until college to slut it up...)

And I've noticed it when other writers are talking about their work---I like to keep mine underwraps a bit, or I have to be prodded to really delve in (my roommates had no idea I was a professor).

And my friend who is in the band is the most wonderful rocker dad I know. Besides the tight pants, you'd think he was your average suburban parent. It makes me proud to be from Ohio---in fact, I named my new computer Ohio Girl, just so she would know her roots and not get too big of an ego---those hipster Macs make me a little skeptical, but you know me and trendy things---I just have to go for them, but in my own way.

Don't worry, the shoes are vegan friendly, no leather and cost me less than three digits for two pairs (yes, I got them in another color as well). And if you want them yourself, check out: Ma Petite Shoe!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Essay Draft

I've been thinking about identity in several different capacities---for panels, my life coaching, my art---and so here's a draft in the works. I'll be in Baltimore this weekend visiting my cousins and seeing O.A.R.!!!


Life as a Jewish Writer or a Writerly Jew

The subject for these essays reminds me of an activity from a BBYO summer program. I was 15 and in a room with Jewish teens from all across the country. Rabbi Carrie Carter posed the question: Are you a Jewish American or an American Jew? We were supposed to go to opposite ends of the room based on how we identified. I remember thinking, which is stronger, the adjective or the noun, the word or the modifier---which one held the most power? I tried to logic it out---most of my peers had already made their decisions. I was sitting in the center of the room with a few other kids. One of them asked if we could be our own category. I don’t remember if Carrie said that was ok or not, or where I ended up, which path I chose.

Years later, I find myself still trying to answer the same question, but in other terms---am I a Jewish writer or a writer who sometimes writes about her Judaism? And I think I will always be writing and thinking about this question. Writing began for me through my Judaism. One year later, after that summer program, I was on another BBYO program, The March of the Living. As part of our experience, we were supposed to keep a journal. I was a compulsive writer. I wanted to document every fact, every moment, every feeling I had as I bore witness to the largest and closest inhumanity I had ever come this close to. Somewhere, poems were born and I became known as the “bus poet.”

In 2006, my first book of poems was released. It’s a poetic sequence written in the voice of a fictitious Holocaust survivor. It was written during the last semester of my MFA, a time when my only Jewish identity was through my writing. At that point, I wasn’t part of a community---there was no BBYO or Hillel, the organizations that shaped my young adult life. I had been own my own and somehow, this voice came from somewhere inside. Even though externally, nothing about me signaled “Jewish,” there was this voice, inside telling me who I was as a writer---definitely Jewish.

We write from the places we’re from. For me, landscape is as much internal as it is external. After spending much of my middle and late twenties unaffiliated, I decided to go back and seek the source from which writing began. My religion. My cultural identity. I applied to be an Arts Fellow at the Drisha institute. I wanted once again to surround myself with a vibrant and artistic Jewish community. Next year, I will continue my explorations of Jewish texts as a part time arts fellow. What I hadn’t thought about until recently is that phrase, we are a people of the book. Judaism is one of the most literary traditions, so it’s no wonder these paths of my life are intrinsically fused together. Before this year at Drisha, I had seen my art and my Judaism as Robert Frost’s proverbial “two roads diverged in a woods,” and I thought I had to pick one, just as I had to cross to one side of the room when I was 15, declaring myself either more “American” or more “Jewish.”

But my learning at Drisha has told me that it’s the exploration of the answer and the journey there. Recently, my writing has taken a new twist. My second book, an anthology of poems in which I edited, compiling poems that women have written about rape and sexual assault, has become a social action project. I found a publisher who would agree to half the profits being donated back to local rape crisis centers. So in this way, my writing has moved from the subject matter as Jewish, to the very purpose of my writing stemming from the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. Or perhaps that it’s that nothing has shifted except for how I understand my position as both a writer and as a Jew.

Thus, as I grow Jewishly, my writing shifts and is influenced by my learning---whether it manifests itself in the text of my poems, or the purpose behind my work, it’s impossible for me to separate my writing life from my Jewish life because both of my worlds inform each other.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Girls Gone Mild!

I remember reading Wendy Shalit's A Return to Modesty in college---it offered the counterpoint to many of my feminist classes, the phrase I remember was "giving in to your shadow slut," and now as I'm back in the dating pool, I'm finding this is more challenging for women in their late twenties. Eve Grubin had a great article in Presentense a while ago about modesty and here's another one in The Weekly Standard. It's definitely something to think about and consider, but I'm curious about the actual application. I've come up with my own dating rules---not as strict as Shomer N'giah, but a version, just like my vegetarianism is like my kashrut. Maybe J was right a long time ago on the street, maybe I will fall for the black hat type. But most likely, I'm hoping for someone who is as energetic and artistic as I am, and someone who will want to navigate this crazy journey with me.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Y Town in My Town

I came across a Youngstown poem while working on a submission this morning---here's to you, Y-town!

Now, back to sauce it up for more bartending tonight!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Short List

It's quiet here---which means I've been quite busy working on projects---I'm not going to talk yet about them here, but they have been causing me to be running around a bit more than usual. For work and for play, of course! Some highlights include wine and cheese at Artisanal, drinking my father's Wild Turkey Honey Infused Bourbon out in the courtyard with one of the best people I know, shopping with mom, writer's group, and roommate bonding.

I think I've also been doing a lot of soul searching and trying to figure out how to pursue everything I want---should I focus on a few key projects, or should everything be on a slow boil? I know I don't have the answer yet, but many things are in motion.

Some exciting news thus far to share is that I will be on a panel at next year's AWP conference. Here's the panel and description: Jewish Poetry vs. Poetry by Jews: While many of the great poets of the 20th century—from Delmore Schwartz to Stanley Kunitz—were Jewish, they rarely dealt with Judaism in their work. Today, however, a new generation of poets—many of them women—are addressing Judaism head-on. This panel will look at why and how this change came about, how these poets came to write about religion and culture, what role Judaism plays in the shape and scope of their work, and how they were influenced by the generations that preceded them.

I've actually been thinking about this quite a bit lately and some of the things that are cropping up are astounding. More on this will follow---I've actually started writing an essay about this and will be posting some thoughts on the blog. My co-panelists are Erika Meitner, Sharon Dolin, Joy Katz, and moderator, Eve Grubin.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It was a BANG

and so good to be home with friends and family! These happened in my cousins' yard, and were lit off by my cousin! All of us in one row of lawnchairs---front row baby!