Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My First All Girl Affair

In the past, I have avoided publishing and aligning my work and myself with "woman" magazines and organizations. When I used to send work to contests (which I never do now), I skipped the woman-only ones. I've never joined Wom-po. There's a lot of complicated reasons for this. I'm not a big fan of poet "identity" used as a way to categorize and my own pre-conceived notions were/are discriminatory -- I hear "woman" and I think "not as good." I don't think I'm the only woman who has thought that way. Also, to be perfectly honest, I tend/tended to prefer the company of men. A lot of "woman talk" makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

My stance is softening and changing considerably over the the past couple of years and yes, pregnancy and motherhood has been a major factor. I didn't want it to be a factor. I've had more than one friend express disappointment when I told him/her I was pregnant because that meant I was going to change, I wasn't going to be fun, I was going to be a mommy and that's lame and what's even lamer is that on many levels I agreed with them. People also told me I wasn't going to write anymore because I would devote my every waking hour to being a mother. Other friends were supportive, but in ways that annoyed me. "Oh, I can't wait to see how your work is going to change once you become a mother!" It took all self-control not to tell these well-intentioned supporters not to go fuck themselves, I'm not writing a fucking sippy cup poem.

Nobody said anything about a sippy cup poem -- that was my own bigotry.

I didn't realize how much baggage I was carrying around until I had no choice but to confront my own views.

One, I'm still uncomfortable with a lot of "woman talk" -- not nearly as much as I was. And men, I still adore being around men, but I much more annoyed and less forgiving of insensitivity -- especially the insensitivity to my situation. This puts me at odds with some of my male friends because they don't understand why I'm suddenly freaking on their asses for what they consider harmless comments and actions. For instance, six days after I gave birth, in what I considered a bold attempt to get "back to work," a question I asked regarding a call for submissions made it onto one of the poet mailing lists I subscribe. A childless male (who I'm pretty sure was aware I just had a baby, at the very least, he knew I was about to have one) publicly chided my inquiry, telling me I needed to be more ambitious with my work and try something "new." You're damn right I freaked on his ass and then I went to bed for three hours in the middle of the day until Chris gently reminded me that I really had to get up and feed Gideon. It was at that moment I understood why women made up their own exclusive communities -- there's no way to avoid those who "don't get it" -- sure, you can always educate someone, but there's always someone else right around the corner with another asinine comment. Sometimes you need a break from it.

The obvious truth is having a child has dramatically changed my life. I'm by far more understanding of other's situations -- yet, I'm even pushier than before -- cause I'm the MOMMY and I make all the rules. It's cause I said so, got it? Now get in the fucking car.

It makes it more difficult to write -- it makes it more difficult to do anything, like showering, going to the grocery store, having a conversation on the telephone, writing a blog post. It's made me decide what's important and what isn't -- forced me to make choices. The easiest choice was to cut-out the 20 or so hours a week I spending designing jewelry. I loved doing it -- yet, the decision to stop was a complete no-brainer. It's not a priority. Other things I've given up -- the neatness of my house and sleep. Those were more difficult choices. I hate having people see the house in a sloppy state. It upsets me. Going from 8 hours of sleep to 4 or 5 hours means I'm often exhausted and lack energy. It clouds my judgement, makes me forget things (sometimes very important things) and sometimes I'm in a foul mood. When people ask me "how do I do it all" I want to shake them and yell "Can't you see I'm barely hanging on here!?!"

Things that I decided are too important to give up are writing, publishing and traveling. That doesn't mean all these things haven't been cut back and modified -- but these are important enough for me to make the effort to fit in around raising a child -- which I find immensely challenging and time consuming in itself.

I don't consider myself lame -- but yes, I now spend a good portion of my day asking "Did you poop?" in a high pitched cutesy voice.

Has it changed the way I write? I don't know. I'm intentionally unconscious of that.

And I have a strong desire to meet and get to know other poet-mothers, mainly those who are still producing work and creative projects. I want to learn from those who continue.

This is a lengthly way of saying, I have work in issue 3 of mem -- published by mother of two, Jill Stengel. mem is a quarterly magazine dedicated to writing by poets who are currently mothering young children, and page mothers--more established poets who are involved in their community in a way that helps less-established women writers get themselves more established. (teachers, publishers, editors, series coordinators, etc.)

Two years ago I wouldn't have bothered flipping through this publication -- but now I find it extremely vital and necessary.

I just got the issue today -- it's purple, my new favorite color (cause Gideon's birthstone is amethyst). It also has poems by Chris Murray, Hoa Nguyen, Danielle Pafunda, Laurel Snyder and Katherine Varnes -- all talented poets continuing with their work.

Let me be clear -- I'm encouraging you to to subscribe.


At 5:58 PM, Blogger didi said...

So are you going to send me a poem or what?


At 6:46 PM, Blogger shann said...

okay- I check it out. My kids are older but they are still a major part of my life-

They did change everything- and I really like that.

Thanks for the link

and 'wah!!!'- sorry I didn't get to Monday night's thing- we're in the middle of rehearsal for "A- My Name is Alice" (my daughter's in it and I'm music director)- we've been rehearsing almost everyday from 4-6 after school (I come from work- long days for this momma)

travel? maybe next year.

At 7:36 AM, Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Hi Reb,
Thanks for reading my poem - I really appreciate your post and think poetry shouldn't be dismissed just because it includes mom-related subjects - including sippy cups! But I don't think there is such thing as "women's poetry" - as my friend Suzanne says, there is poetry only a woman could write.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Lo said...

There is also poetry that only a woman can appreciate.
It's ok to be a woman...and a mother...sometimes it's even ok to be a mother first and a woman second. Occasionally that "sometimes" lasts 18 years.

They grow up eventually and once again you'll find yourself with that precioua commodity - time!!!!

I don't know about the energy, tho, I'm still waiting for that part to return.

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Radish King said...

And yet you still hear and read it women poets, as though we are lesser somehow, yes. Even worse is Northwest Women Poets but that's an entirely different discussion.

I am the concertmaster, not the concermistress. I got here because I mastered my instrument. And I'm better than you. Same goes for poets.I am a poet, not a Woman Poet and never a Nortwest Woman Poet.

This may not make sense. I'm sick. I'm one sick woman, heh.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Simmons B. Buntin said...

I'm not a woman, but do play one on TV. Well, not really, but I will say this: I thought I knew all about parenting and children until we actually had some of our own.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger 32poems said...

What you said. Especially about cleaning the house. I cringe when people come over but I'm not picking it up.



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