Monday, December 8, 2014

Document Poetics

As I am working on my latest project using document poetics, I realize my own documentation of the process is very private. I'm carrying now my fourth draft, finding ways to approach the material, but my influences--those inspiring me to move forward--are missing.

So here they are:

  • Things Come On: An Amnoir by Joe Harrington [the most inspirational book for me]
  • A Handmade Museum by Brenda Coultas: for those memoir pieces that need more poetics
  • greensward and ours by Cole Swensen: for image as artwork with word-economy, and writing out of document
  • The Complete Dark Shadows by Tony Trigilio: documenting my experience with going back to photos, research, and the combination [he really fuses these things in wonderful ways]
  • Don't Let Me Be Lonely and Citizen (American Lyrics) by Claudia Rankine: another use of photo and news--to show the connections between private and public stories
  • Green-Wood by Alison Cobb: poetic non-fiction, document poetics, genius, thorough

I really do have to give a shout-out to Joe. He was the first to ever give me a list of books to consult for my project. Even though I didn't end up using document poetics for my project as much as the list he gave me did, this list-making is something I continue to do.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Yay, BLP!


Denial continues:

Sexual Assualt and Trouble Writing

I am having a difficult time determining how to create a Conceptual Poetry piece speaking out against sexual assault. I was going to use a text by a semi-famous someone whose books, in the guise of fiction, are actually details of their crime. However, large parts of the book were written by the survivor, too, which means I ethically can't do an omission of that text. It one thing to do what Reddy did with Voyager, but when the survivor is a part of that text, I can't. I thought about using the "open letters" as a way to create an omission work. Really, my words and work are pale in comparison to the survivors who are SPEAKING OUT with their AMAZING vulnerability. I just want to write a book that says YOU ARE AWESOME!, and WE SUPPORT YOU! to them.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I realize the project around fighting sexual assault will be on the backburner. I just can't find the way to enter that project and feel non-exploitive.

Instead, I am beginning a collaboration with another poet around Agent Orange. Also, a baseball project is in full swing. :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Greetings from Naropa

For the first conference, this is such an amazing experience. First, it is free. It is very generous for Naropa to offer this, including the food for the reception yesterday.

The panels are compelling, on the level of the best AWP panels I have attended, which is why this alt-AWP conference is a must. The overwhelming nature of AWP isn't here. People are friendly, passionate about their work, and there is a willingness to share about process and one's self.

The small, peaceful campus is a bonus, Also, I am blown away by the students and their presence to help with the conference.

I've met several poets I have been wanting to meet, plus CA Conrad is a delight to finally talk to in person.

I loved serving on the panel about mothers. The turnout was amazing, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

I have been tweeting different things I have caught at panels, Find my tweets @poemslyrical.

Monday, October 6, 2014

NaNoWriMo changes

I had my sci-fi dystopian YA novel all planned, some of the story's twists mapped out, the three acts of it, and things looked great. It was a way to write something outside of my comfort zone.

Based on a number of facebook posts, I also wanted to compile a list of small-press books of poetry which use domestic violence and sexual assault as their subject.

I did not know those posts I was reading were in response to the news that broke out around AssauLT-LIT, my catchphrase.


I want to respond with a piece of writing, but that is difficult. I don't want to conjure up new triggers for survivors, I don't want to exploit the story in the name of social awareness lit, but I don't want to say silence is an answer.

Reading different pages made me sick. I simply started doing searches on amazon. There it is: the allegation and guilt in print while making fun of rape.

The page I looked at, page 33, was removed from amazon's search inside feature.
I think of my life, how I want to protect those around me, how there is unspoken ugliness in the attitudes of people, and writing is where I turn to face these internal turmoils.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Good bye, books!

It comes down to this: I can't keep books I know were written by any writer-poet who abused and raped someone to get material for.

Gawker Articles

"The comment refers to two rape allegations against prominent alt-lit editor Stephen Tully Dierks, who founded the alt lit mag Pop Serial, and allegations of rape and abuse against alt lit's figurehead, author Tao Lin. Alt lit writer Stephen Trull—pen name Janey Smith—has also been accused of sexual abuse. On top of that, alt lit writer and artist Stephen Michael McDowell confessed on Tumblr yesterday that he's a "rapist, a sex offender, and a predator.""


Other article:

In emails to BuzzFeed news and a Facebook post that appears to have since been deleted, the author Tao Lin responded to accusations that he committed statutory rape when he was in a relationship with a 16-year-old in 2005.
E.R. Kennedy, also known as Ellen Kennedy, posted a 20-tweet-long account of their relationship when Kennedy was 16 and Lin was 22.
In the tweets, Kennedy claims that Lin was physically and emotionally abusive. Kennedy used the hashtag #TaoLinIsARapist. Kennedy also says Lin plagiarized her work.
“Tao Lin literally copied and pasted my emails into his ‘novel’. He took credit for my words, for my painful memories, for my story,” Kennedy tweeted.
The tweets were collected and posted on Tumblr, where they went viral.
In an email exchange with BuzzFeed News on Wednesday, Lin acknowledged a relationship with Kennedy but said it wasn’t statutory rape, citing Pennsylvania’s age of consent.
“In the relationship, in 2006, I was, I know, a shitty person (but I only had consensual sex with someone who, in PA, was not a minor), which I documented in the novel Richard Yates,” Lin said in an email.
Lin said that Kennedy read the novel Richard Yates — which Lin said details a fictionalized version of their relationship — and Kennedy approved of it being published.
“I, and my publisher, had made sure she was okay with it, and that it was fictionalized sufficiently,” Lin said.
Users began questioning Lin about the allegations in the comments of a post on his Facebook and he responded with a statement in a post set to friends-only privacy settings:
Yes, I had consensual sex with Ellen in her parents’ house in Pennsylvania in her parents’ bed, as she tweeted, when I was 22 and she was 16. No, that is not statutory rape, let alone rape. So, no, I did not rape and steal from her. We were in a relationship that had problems. About using her emails for my book: I talked to her about it during and after the writing of “Richard Yates” (book she is referencing) from 2006-2008 and she read it something like a year before it was released in 2010. I made sure (and my publisher made sure I made sure) she was okay with what I was writing about, and I said I wouldn’t write anything she didn’t want me to write about. (She has also written about our experiences, and I have often felt very close to her in our views on life/fiction.) We continued communicating regularly from the time I met her in 2006 to 2014, though our romantic relationship (which I think I valued more than anything else at the time) ended sometime in 2007. I published her poetry book, we co-wrote things together, talked as friends in emails. A few months ago Muumuu House funded her trip to a poetry reading in Boston, and before that we emailed about the eBook edition of her book, for examples of things we email about. Sometimes she has “lashed out” against me, then afterwards apologized saying she didn’t remember lashing out. I understand this behavior from someone who has experienced my shitty (but not, in terms of Ellen, illegal—shoplifting batteries is illegal, I know) behavior as a shitty person in a relationship. I try to be open about my negatives as a person, and examined these negatives for example in “Richard Yates” and in my other writing. Because Ellen (now, but not in the past) seems very affected by the fact that I wrote about our experience (and to be in need financially, and to suspect I am profiting off her, based on her tweets), I offered her (in an email today) all the royalties to RY, or to never mention it and ask Melville House to stop printing/selling it if that’s possible at all, saying I care more about her, a person, than a book. I hoped not to involve everyone reading this in this, and to not reveal all this stuff to strangers in this context (partly because I think it’s unproductive for everyone involved and the world generally), but since you asked, and reporters have emailed me about it, and it seems like it’s going to be written about and create a massive shitstorm forever linking me with the term “rapist” probably in the minds of most people who skim any articles about this or have seen or heard about that Tumblr post, I felt it was appropriate to type this paragraph here.
Kennedy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. “I just needed to get some things of my chest leave the accusations to me this will be solved in due time,” Kennedy tweeted on Thursday.
Melville House, the publisher of Richard Yates, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the allegations that Lin used Kennedy’s writing without permission.

Hobart Letter

Tao Lin's facebook response:
"Elizabeth's essay is much more complex, in my view, than any of you commenters (who seem to want to make Elizabeth's essay, and everything, it seems, an 'us' vs 'them' issue in which you are on the 'us' side—and who seem unaware that this is exactly the wrong way to think about things if you want to reduce misogyny and other prejudices in the world in a sustainable, long-term manner) are reacting to. A world run by hundreds of Elizabeth Ellens would, I feel, be a more compassionate and less prejudiced world than a world run by hundreds of Walters and Amys and Patricks. I imagine the world in which everyone is thinking in terms of 'us' vs 'them' would quickly fall into a World War, World War 3. I take Jesus' teachings (or the teachings of many others in the history of the world) to love and forgive everyone, and to be compassionate to all humans (and in some cases any living creature) seriously because I think it's also the only effective way to reduce misogyny and other prejudices in the long term (not just long enough for someone who has been accused of a crime to be shunned out of a community and into another community) both in myself and in anyone I interact with. This means everyone—the accusers, the accused, any human who is alive. If my best friend was convicted of rape or worse in a court of law, I would hope that I would continue to be friends with them because I think love and forgiveness are productive and anger and labeling any human in one word is unproductive. If I shunned my best friend, and they went to jail for 10 years, then were released and felt there was no compassion from the world for them, they may have 10 children and hundreds of grandchildren 20 years later. Do I want these children to be raised by someone who, after committing a crime, still felt loved and was able to change their ways of thinking to ways that were more loving and less prejudiced? Or do I want these children to be raised by someone who feels shunned by the world, and would pass on this feeling of fear and divisiveness to possibly thousands or millions of progeny over the next century or few centuries? It should also be noted that the people who founded this country probably thought more than you commenters have about what to do in situations like this. They apparently found that "innocent until proven guilty" would be a good thing to promote and set as law in a society, probably thinking of the witch trials and hundreds of other atrocities throughout history that have happened due to this behavior that I feel you commenters are exhibiting to some degree. "Innocent until proven guilty" isn't a joke, it's something people have thought hard about after looking at thousands of years of hundreds of civilizations. It exists to reduce pain and suffering and prejudice, not to increase it. Elizabeth is against misogyny, I'm against misogyny, you commenters are against misogyny. Now think about what will reduce it in the long-term. It's not accusing other people of being misogynistic or going online to comment on strangers' lives or expressing that you "despise" someone's actions for posting a link to a deeply personal essay covering a range of issues, written over 3 days while in a non 'us' vs 'them' dialogue with multiple people in her life from multiple generations on these issues, by a person espousing compassion for all (like the Dalai Lama, Jesus, and other forces throughout the world that are preventing World War 3 by not having an 'us' vs 'them' mentality and, through their teachings of forgiveness and oneness, have historically prevented even more war and suffering than would've otherwise probably happened) and who wants nothing more in this world, as she wrote, "than to see strong, independent women (especially young women) work for and achieve their dreams, to be successful and self-confident and self-sufficient and healthy" and who, as anyone who has read the essay should already know, is working to do just that with her entire life, it seems to me."

Someone's response to his:
"I think a lot of the reason sexism, misogyny, assault and other problems are able to fester and grow in these communities is because there are women out there who have more of a vested interest in protecting these communities from criticism than in protecting other women."

Another to the article: "This piece is totally misogynist; a classic case of victim-blaming that deliberately obscures the patriarchal structures we live under and portrays women who speak out about being raped as literary "climbers" who are somehow responsible for their being raped, even deserved what they got, just because they weren't raped by a stranger in a back alley with a knife to their throats." 


October 3, 2014 | Nonfiction

An Open Letter to the Internet

Elizabeth Ellen

I never wanted to be an essayist. I remember Blake Butler asking me to contribute to HTML GIANT years ago. Roxane Gay asking me to send her essays for The Rumpus. I greatly appreciated the interest, the asking, but essays weren’t my thing. I didn’t feel political. I didn’t want to be known for my opinions or to think of my opinions as something other people should read or take note of or care about. Maybe I wanted more privacy. Maybe I was worried I’d start to take my opinions too seriously. Or that I’d focus on nonfiction to the detriment of my fiction. So here I am writing an essay I both don’t want to write and feel compelled to write above doing anything else right now because no one else is writing it.
I am scared to death, I’ll tell you that.
People who care about me have urged me not to write this.
“People already have their opinions formed.”
“It’s too soon.”
“People will hate you.”
Everyone is scared. But not everyone is of one mind. I’m not even of one mind. My thoughts are scattered and varying and there is so much grey area. I don’t know if anything I am about to say is “right.” But something needs to be said. And I can’t allow my fear to guide me any longer. I have written an essay each of the previous two evenings and chickened out on posting them each of the following mornings.
[I am thinking right now of the studies that show that female students raise their hands in class with the same frequency as male students until they enter puberty and then females begin second-guessing themselves, only raising their hands if they are a hundred percent certain they have the right answer…]
I am not certain I have the right answer.
I am certain I don’t. Nor am I practiced at the art of essay writing. I don’t have the proper terminology at my grasp. I am ineloquent. Enough excuses.
Let’s stop being scared.
When I sent the first essay to a female friend of mine she said, “You can’t say this. You’re blaming the victim if you say this.”
But those are not my guidelines. I did not agree to that. I am a woman, too. I am capable of deciding for myself. Of setting my own guidelines for myself.
(Do you want women to speak their minds or don’t you? Or do you only want a woman to speak her mind when it gels with what you’re saying? When it supports your argument?)
I was raised in the ‘70s by a young, single mother who marched for women’s rights, had books by Gloria Steinem and Anais Nin and Virginia Woolf on our shelves, and who wrote poems ‘in defense of Yoko Ono.’ She also often worked two jobs at once. Still, she took the time to assign me books she thought were important for me to read. The Color Purple. The Good Earth. One by Herman Hesse, I’m blanking on; maybe Siddhartha. I remember her handing me ‘Lust’ by Susan Minot in (I believe) The Paris Review as a teenager to read. She was also married (and divorced) three times by the time I was ten or eleven (she had me when she was 19). She was also a victim of domestic violence. She was also arrested for domestic violence. Okay, so she’s not perfect. None of us are (getting to my own imperfections soon). But she taught me to think for myself and to stand up for myself. She showed me what a strong, independent woman is. She told me to be unafraid.
So today when I felt insane reading some of what is out there on the Internet, I turned to my mother (something I do all too infrequently as an adult, unfortunately). I wanted a woman from another generation’s perspective, specifically, a woman who had marched for women’s rights and considers herself a feminist. I sent her the Gawker piece and asked for her opinion without stating my own. I left the house for a couple hours. When I got back there was a reply from her stating almost verbatim my thoughts on the matter:
“So I read what you forwarded me. my thoughts? Hummm. I wouldn’t call it rape. The Sophia female clearly tried to dissuade him but didn’t say no, didn’t get up and go in the other room, didn’t stop what was going on. I think we’ve all been in situations where we had sex that we really didn’t want to have as we didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ or didn’t have the nerve to say no and just wanted to get it over with. Who knows what he would have done if she simply said, listen stan, I’m not doing this.
"I know it took me some time to be able to say no in weird situations and have it turn out ok. I’ve slept with guys in the same bed without having sex and we remained friends. I’ve been in situations where I’ve had sex and got the hell out and said to myself, thank god that’s as bad as it got.
"Maybe the guy’s a scumbag as some of them say, but I wouldn’t call him a rapist.
"I think the Sophia character hasn’t taken responsibility for her part in the scenario. It’s almost like entrapment on one level: she stayed with him several days, had sex with him, never said I hate this or don’t do this, then turns around and writes a damning story about it. So he’s a jerk who used his position to press females into sex with him, yes. He admits as much. People will do what they can get away with. I didn’t get that he had any malice. And he obviously has no charm and ability to woo a woman. Sounds like a very young immature guy who capitalized on his literary position. But not a rapist.
"And I do have problems with women who won’t take responsibility for their actions. Was he supposed to read her mind? No means no but you have to say it. And she obviously was using him for a place to stay, for access to a writing venue?? I don’t know. So she didn’t want to jeopardize getting what she wanted; hence she waited until later to decry the situation. In essence she gave sex in exchange for whatever it was she was there to get.
"You’re right, it’s delicate.
"And I like your thoughts at the end of the email, that it’s a sad thing. You can express yourself. Just remember, not everyone is going to love you, so you have to either say what you mean so you can live with it, or not say anything. I guess that would be my advice.”
This is almost as much as I want to say about that case. Except to say that rape is not a word I throw around casually. It is an extremely damning word and should be treated as such. When the decision was made to make this story public, we all became members of a jury. So I get to say my opinion, too. I echo my mother’s words: maybe the guy’s a scumbag, but I wouldn’t call him a rapist.
And, yes, there is a goddamn difference.
To publicly humiliate and shun and incriminate someone to the point his career and public life is over, you better have more evidence than this.
And you can say I’m shaming the victim. But I say you’re wrong. I am saying there are two victims in the above story. And you’re shaming one and not the other. I’m saying you can’t have it both ways. You can’t hold one accountable and not the other.
(And if you want to know, I met Stephen once. I was predisposed not to like him because he had rejected me twice from Pop Serial. But he was okay. He was fine. I’m not going to sit here now and say, “I always knew he was creepy.” Or “I knew he was doing bad things.” Because the logical next question is, if you knew, why didn’t you do something? (and, no, I didn’t actually know. I am making a point based on comments I have seen others make on the Internet))
Now let’s talk about what I maybe found most enraging (as opposed to sad or painful; don’t (purposefully) misunderstand me) in this whole shameful/shame-filled debacle this week.
It was a comment (I believe) linked to or copied into the Gawker article in which someone on a social media site said something like, “Another white male editor down. Yay! Female empowerment!”
If this is anyone’s idea of gaining female empowerment, count me out. If celebrating the ruining of another person’s life is cause for celebration, I don’t want any part of it.
But guess what. It’s really not that hard to start a literary journal. Pop Serial wasn’t that big of a deal. Shabby Doll House and Illuminati Girl Gang are just as good; no, are better.
But what are we talking about? Are we talking about rape or are we talking about the disparity of males to females in the literary community?
In the same Gawker article the author named several male writers and editors in our community to make a point, I guess, that it is run by men? But as off topic as that comment is, it’s not even true. It was a slanting to prove a point (what point I’m not sure). And just as many recent articles (not on Gawker) have pointed to the women starting/running/editing literary journals currently/in the recent past: Sarah Jean Alexander, Gabby Bess, LK Shaw, Roxane Gay, me.
And it’s really not that hard to make a name for yourself in the literary world in the traditional manner: writing for years in your bedroom anywhere other than New York City or Brooklyn, having your work rejected for many of those years, sometimes accepted, getting to know other writers and editors little by little over the period of a decade.
Oh wait. I guess that is hard.
But you know what. It’s what Roxane and Tao and Blake and Chelsea and I all did.
(If you’re nineteen or twenty (or any age, really, but this seems to be the age of the people who do this), stop emailing me asking how you can get Mira or Tao to read your shit or follow you on Twitter. Write something decent. And don’t send me a shittily written story about abuse. The fact that it’s about abuse is not enough to warrant publication in a literary journal or on a literary website (imo). Ditto: cancer story. Ditto: anything story. The writing comes first. I’m sorry if this is offensive to you. But someone should tell you before you turn twenty-one (or whatever age you are, again, a generalization. I know quite a few twenty-one year olds who write circles around me: hello, Mira). You’re going to have to work a little harder.)
I’m getting off topic, but that’s because these articles have all been so off topic.
I want to get to my imperfections.
(Well, I don’t want to, but we need to; I need to.)
When I was a young person I molested three children younger than myself; a boy and two girls, one of which was my half-sister. Granted, I was, to the best of my knowledge/memory, nine or ten and the children were all about three or four years younger than I was. I know you’re going to say this doesn’t count. But think of finding me in your five year old’s bed. Think of my grandmother finding me on top of my sister in hers. I was shunned. Rightfully so, I thought. Separated from my sister (I was never caught in the other two cases). I remember being sent down to the swimming pool (who knows the logic behind this) while my grandmother comforted (?) or talked to my sister. I remember feeling like a monster. Ashamed. Crying alone in the water (in my memory it was evening, dinner time; maybe there were other people but in my memory I am alone). I don’t remember if this was the last time it happened. I don’t remember being molested myself (that is the logical next thought, I realize). I don’t know why I did it. I still don’t understand why. (My sister and I don’t talk. I never see her. I don’t know if this is based on what happened then or if this is based on any number of other reasons why half-siblings or any siblings may or may not talk as adults. I have often wondered how much or if she remembers; if it was a traumatic experience for her. I have never asked. I’m still too afraid; feel too much a monster.)
I think it is important to tell you this because I think it is important for us all to remember our faults and those things we are most ashamed of.
Recently, a friend of mine came to me distraught, in tears, asked if she could confide in me. (She isn’t writer or a member of the literary community.) It was something about one of her children. Something one of them had done. The now-grown child was facing prison time. My friend told me I was the only person outside their immediate family she felt comfortable telling because she knew I wouldn’t judge her child.
Later, in the same evening, she told me that when I had broken up with a boyfriend, “I hated you. I could show you the messages I wrote [name of boyfriend]. I still have them.”
My friend failed to see the irony, I guess.
Of valuing me as a friend who wouldn’t judge her son for his crimes but not affording me the same courtesy.
Needless to say I had no interest in seeing the messages she wrote in defense of my boyfriend or accusatorily of me.
(And I want to return here to Sophia. I would never judge her, nor would my mother, were we not being asked (by Sophia? By ‘the public’?) to judge the entire situation.)
So let’s get to Tao Lin.
Where do we start?
Do we start with age of consent laws? Because they are constantly changing, from culture to culture and decade to decade. (Is this really what you’re concerned with, though? The law? Or is it something else and you’re using the law as any easy way of attack?) I have actually researched them a bit over the years for a novel I am writing. I find the frequency and range with which they fluctuate from country to country and time period to time period highly fascinating and often without reason and staggering. I also find it completely sexist. There is almost no law regarding males and age of consent. At least there weren’t until very, very recently. (Why would we need one?  If it’s sex, a male is consenting to it! And herein may lay the true basis for everything being yelled about this week. The fact that we women are still made to feel bad about sex. ‘Casual sex’ especially. We still feel the need, a lot of the time, to justify why we engaged in it… this is a discussion I would love to see more of; how we raise girls STILL to save their virginity or to wait until they’re in a ‘committed relationship’ but encourage boys to have sex whenever/wherever; and, yes, as the mother of an eighteen year old female, I watched this happen in other families with great frequency just a couple years ago. It was jaw-dropping, the hypocrisy of liberal, educated parents, in the way they parented teenage sons vs teenage daughters.)
When I was seventeen I spent a summer dating my best friend’s brother’s best friend, a twenty-four year old I desperately wanted to lose my virginity to. He was a musician, good looking, cool, sweet. But the age difference freaked him out. He was afraid of the laws or my mother... So he broke up with me at the end of the summer, broke my heart (my first experience with heartbreak!), and I ended up losing my virginity to a clumsy guy my own age at a party over Christmas break, in someone else’s bedroom, the act in no way romantic. Oh, how I would have preferred my twenty-four year old!
It was not at all uncommon for friends of mine (females) to date older boys/men. I would say four years was the average age gap (the male always older).
Which is all to say, I don’t think age is the real issue here. When it comes to Tao Lin.
BUT get it straight: to the best of my knowledge, based on public statements, you are accusing him of ‘statutory rape.’ AND YES THERE IS A DIFFERENCE. Because as stated above, laws change from year to year. It’s a matter of politics, not (necessarily) a matter of morality.
And thus, half my friend’s boyfriends could have been accused of the same: ‘statutory rape.’
But again, I don’t buy that this is what the hysteria is about.
I think the hysteria is a) getting caught up in the whirlwind of ‘taking down’ male writers/editors b) a mistaken belief that this (these takedowns) is equal to female empowerment c) the tweets of E. R. Kennedy.
So let’s talk about E. R. Kennedy.
I know very little about E. R. Kennedy (to be truthful, I don’t even know whether to refer to E. R. Kennedy as a him or a her and I am not trying to be disrespectful I just literally don’t know; have heard only rumors and don’t want to go by rumors when addressing the gender of a person).
I, like you, probably, ‘know’ what I read in Richard Yates, a work of fiction.
But let’s make that point: what E. R. Kennedy has stated in recent days does not vary greatly (or at all?) from what Tao Lin wrote of a fictional relationship in a novel.
And let’s be honest. Most of us who read Richard Yates knew who it was based on. Some of us (not me) even met the person in question.
So that it comes to anyone as a surprise, these allegations, baffles my mind.
Up until last week, almost every person making negative comments on the Internet with regard to Tao Lin had all the knowledge (or most of it) we have today and still (I am betting) would have been or was ‘stoked’ if given the opportunity to hang out with Tao or be retweeted by Tao or go to a reading by Tao.
So don’t be so fake.
I’ll say I remember reading Richard Yates and Taipei and being impressed with the writing but thinking, probably saying, “God, I’d never want to date Tao Lin.”
I mean, yes, he comes off, in those fictional books, as controlling and nitpicking and manipulating and even occasionally cruel.
But that doesn’t make him a rapist.
And since when is emotional abuse grounds for public shunning? Because, let me say this, I know very few people who haven’t at one time (or plenty of times) been guilty of emotionally abusing someone, myself included (just ask my friend; she’ll show you the messages she sent my boyfriend in support of him when she ‘hated’ me).
Should we have a public shunning a week?
I mean, we’re having one a day currently…
Everything I can think to say regarding E. R. Kennedy feels…condescending or pitying or…I don’t know. I believe E. R. Kennedy. Tao believes E. R. Kennedy (to the best of my knowledge). Tao was a shitty boyfriend; at times he may have been, almost assuredly was, emotionally abusive.  But I believe the ages of each person involved played almost no role in what happened or a very small role. (This is an outsider’s opinion, as are all of our opinions, excluding Tao’s and E. R. Kennedy’s.)
When I was twenty-five, I married an eighteen year old. I never thought of our age difference at the time. When we met we thought we were the same age (I don’t know which age that was, just that we didn’t think it was different or we never stopped to ask until we were in love and then we didn’t care and this all happened in the matter of days). (It’s only now interesting to me that I was seven years older than he was, that he was eighteen. There was so much more interesting about him and our relationship then to think about something like age.) A year after we married he had his first psychotic break. He was hospitalized a month. I remember my father-in-law making some ‘passing comment’ to me in the E.R. about my husband having told him about some guy I’d flirted with months before, seeming to infer something, I wasn’t quite sure what, this ‘flirting’ being the root of my husband’s breakdown, maybe? I remember saying, “But nothing happened. I barely even talked to the guy.” And my father-in-law saying, “But perception is reality.” I thought about that for years. But I think my father-in-law’s perception of the situation was that something about my marrying his son had caused his son’s breakdown.
Ugh. I’m losing my train of thought. Or what I am trying to say.
This is way more complicated, all of this (not just Tao Lin and E. R. Kennedy but all of it), than any article I have read so far even comes close to saying.
Let me get back to my personal experience with Tao, as everyone seems to be sharing his/hers.
I started publishing online shortly (very shortly) before him (to the best of my knowledge). We emailed a handful of times over the first six or seven years I knew him or knew of him. I met him very briefly in 2010 at a reading. And then I met him again last year, spent a few hours with him, just talking in his room (with another female writer). Since these things seem important to know currently: I found him charming, soft-spoken, funny, sometimes infuriating in the way someone who is stoned and also has tendencies to be controlling can be infuriating. Overall we had a nice, fun evening. He never once has struck me as ‘creepy.’ He has never been anything but polite and nice to me. I would say our friendship is based on two things: writing and animals, as we both have a great interest in both.
But none of this really matters, does it.
And it probably isn’t all that interesting to you because it’s not salacious. It doesn’t support the theory of Tao being a monster. Because he’s not one. Not more than I am a monster, anyway. Probably not more than you are either, if you sit with yourself long enough alone in a room and think for five minutes (or two seconds).
I think ultimately, the problem I have had this week with the way things have been handled is the lack of humanity that has been shown throughout.
I have viewed rage.
I have viewed one-sided compassion.
I have yet to view true empathy.
For every human being involved.
Even if we agreed that every man we know is a rapist, is this how we should handle that knowledge? With public shunning and the dehumanization of them? Has this sort of behavior or tactic ever worked in the past with anything? Has it ever brought healing or people together or educated people or elicited true change or positive outcomes?
Did we learn nothing from the public witch trials?
Aside from scaring the shit out of people to the point they are afraid to voice a dissenting opinion?
As the child of a single mother, as the mother of an eighteen year old daughter, as a publisher of strong female voices (and some male ones too), I think I have made my case my entire lifetime as being a supporter and champion of women.
There is nothing I want more in this world than to see strong, independent women (especially young women) work for and achieve their dreams, to be successful and self-confident and self-sufficient and healthy. And I am a hundred percent behind helping them work toward their goals.
But not this way.
Not like this.
And one last thing: I refuse to be afraid of my fellow women. Of entering into a discourse with them for fear I will say something they don’t like. That’s not what our moms marched for. It’s certainly not what mine marched for. Let’s remember this.

Sexual Assault, Small Presses, and Shock

Shanna Compton on facebook: "I thought maybe your reading list was a reaction to this. But as Danielle said earlier, can't wait to publish a future edition of Natural History Rape Museum that seem, uh, irrelevant. Your reading list would be a good thing to share, when you are finished compiling it, I think."

When I was going to talk to my class about sexual assault on campus, ways to get in touch with people at the YWCA, and to be a support for those who have suffered rape, someone suggested books I could use in the classroom like "I know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Well, I know a number of books, like Julie  Carr's _100 Notes on Violence_, which I would prefer because of their art and being from a small press. I sent a call on facebook asking for such book titles from small presses.

Then a ton of bricks came down on me the next day.

I said on facebook that I would burn my Tao Lin books.

Someone posted: "Book burning .... Yeah. Really productive conversation."

I responded that the book burning was for me, that I have a Tao Lin story form his visit to KU, and it would be a part of a healing ritual. Really, people don't like the idea of book burning after Hitler, do they? Prospero's made headlines when they started burning their books because no one was buying them. That made me chuckle, because, really, there are some _bad_ books out there. 

This is no publicity stunt, though, but if it calls attention to how authors we hold to high esteem are capable of physical, verbal, and sexual assault while in denial that anything they did was wrong, what can we do for our own healing? What can we do to call attention to this possibility? What can we do to stand by those who are survivors?

It comes down to this: I can't keep a book I know was written out of actual events of abuse the writer abused someone to get material for.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Springboards of 2004

By bizarre coincidence, the three years I selected for my trilogy project (1984, 1991, and 2004) saw a Republican President and a Democrat as Governor of Kansas. The series highlights conflicts, so this is JUST PERFECT!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

NaNoWriMo this year, for reals

Will you join me for NaNoWriMo? You should create a profile on My name is poemslyrical.

Also, TSCPL has several events planned:

10/13/2014 6:30 PM
Fiction Writing Techniques for Nanowrimo

10/27/2014 6:30 PM
Nanowrimo Kickoff: How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

11/2/2014 1:00 PM
Nanowrimo Write In

11/9/2014 1:00 PM
Nanowrimo Write In

I plan to come up with an overall arc for my flash fiction pieces. That way, I can tell myself I only need to write three or four flashes.

Of course, I plan to come up with writing projects-prompts to help before I begin.

I really think a lot of people already have material before November so they can have bragging rights. I'd like to see a NaNoReMo, National Novel Revision Month, and see how successful people are there. *smile*

Friday, September 12, 2014


From a friend's post:

on "selfie haters": who gives a rat's ass if people LIKE taking photos of themselves…admire themselves…try to bring out the best view of their selves.. ?

if you can't appreciate your SELF, then who else will?

My posting:

The only person who can take my selfie is me. Who else really wants a picture of me at a time when I am ready for a picture of me to be taken? The selfie is an art form designed by the artist taking the selfie regarding SUBJECT in a world of OBJECTIFICATION. Are selfie haters those men who are acting out of Patriarchal power and women who can't get out of the embedded Patriarchy of our culture?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Questions from a student

A student in Washburn's first-year experience class asked me questions about my college experiences, etc. I thought I would post them with my responses here, just for kicks:

1.Do you think WU 101 is necessary?
2.Why do you think colleges are doing it?
3.Did they have a course like this when you were in college, and if not, do you wish they did?
Many universities are having it because students are not prepared, there is a large first-year drop-out rate (25%), and such. However, I have heard complaints about it from students who were prepared, students who took AP classes in high school. I know I wasn’t prepared when I entered college. Maybe it could have helped me? I would love to see more discussions between professors and students about what they want WU101 to be.

4.What did you learn through your college experience?
I learned who I am.

5.Would you do anything differently?
I am not sure I would, or else I would not have learned from all of the mistakes I did make. I can’t tell you what you should do, except don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

6.Do you believe students should build relationships with their professors?
Yes! I love the relationships I have made as both student and professor. It might be the reason for being alive—to build relationships with others.

7.Are there any interesting/shocking facts about yourself that you would care to share?
It took me eleven years to earn my first degree in Computer System Analysis. However, it took seven years total to earn my BA, MA, and MFA in English!

8.What is your favorite college experience?
That is tough! The one changing point is when my philosophy professor called me in his office and said I should become a better writer. See question #10 for more info.

9.Was English your first passion? If not, what was?
When I came to Washburn, I followed my dream of what I wanted to be: A Computer Programmer/Analyst! My first degree was in Computer Information Systems. I moved into the job at the bank I was working with, then moved to an insurance company. Soon, I realized I did not like working in the corporate world. I went back to Washburn at night to earn my second degree in English, then left the business world for grad school--and never looked back!

10.Why did you choose English?
English chose me. When I was twenty, a professor said I should learn to be a better writer by keeping a journal and carrying a thesaurus. Those journal entries became poems, which entered me into the world of language. Language was a way I found myself—broke out of the isolation I was in. It was that moment when I was in my cubicle at work as a computer programmer when I looked at the walls and realized that, instead of flowcharts and programming strategies, I had poems. My cubicle walls inside a room of cubicles inside an insurance company were covered with poems!

11.How long have you taught?
Since 2004.

12.In literature who is your favorite author and who is your favorite poet? Why did you choose them?
WOW, what a question! I still love what Herman Melville did with Moby Dick. If people would just pick it up and give it a close reading, it really is amazing. I can’t put my finger on one poet, as so many have influenced my work: Joe Harrington, CA Conrad, Kate Greenstreet, Rachel Zucker, on and on.

13.Do you like writing? If so what do you like to write?
I write poetry, fiction, and hybrid works that combine them. In fact, I will teach a Poetic Memoir class in Fall 2015 I am really excited about.

EN199/399/599: CW Poetic Memoir. This special topics creative writing class explores mixed-genre/contemporary form examples from writers who use verse, prose, image, appropriation, experimentation, and form to "show" their autobiography/memoir. Students will write their own poetic memoirs inspired by these examples. No previous experience necessary.

14.What kind of books do you normally read?
Poetry. Lots of it. Sometimes experimental fiction.

15.What do you like to do for fun?
I spend a lot of time with my family, and they are a lot of fun to be with. Also, I like to meet friends at PT’s in College Hill to hang out, write together, etc. I also love movies.

16.(On a not so serious category) Do you believe in aliens?
I am still up in the air on this one. I do tend to side with Stephen Hawking, that if aliens come to Earth it would be for harm. Maybe I have watched a lot of sci-fi?

17.Do you believe the Avengers or the Justice League secretly exist?
The Avengers, of course, do. The Justice League is make-believe.

18.Who do you like better and why?
I am more of a Marvel Comics reader because I grew up identifying more with Marvel superheroes, especially the X-Men. I was a loner with only one friend, so I related to mutants being the outcasts. Here is a poem I wrote about it:


“I’m good at what I do, but what I do isn’t nice.”

Logan shouts at me
to run away
from middle school not knowing
the kids who chase me
and the late afternoon down
to the comic book store
isn’t this time for him
to catch a scent hear
tracks and double back
claws extended?

19.Do you like sports? If so what kind and who is your favorite team?
Baseball! Maybe, again, it has to do with my passion for it when I was a boy. It was the Golden Age for the Royals, when everyone knew each of the players’ names: George Brett, Hal McRae, Dan Quisenberry, etc. I’m still a Royals fan and took my boys to see their first game last Tuesday.

20.Did you make any friends in college that you still communicate with?
Yes! In fact, someone I went to school with while earning my second degree at Washburn teaches English here: Israel Wasserstein.