Monday, January 18, 2010

Of white people and their discontents

Conversation I had at a cocktail party this weekend:

Kenny Rogers*: So what brings you to Boston?
Me: I live here, ha ha.
Kenny Rogers: Ha ha.
Me: I moved here for grad school.
Kenny Rogers: What school?
Me: Emerson. I studied poetry.
Kenny Rogers: You majored in poetry?!
Me: No, I didn't "major" in it. I got my MFA.
Kenny Rogers: Oh, I know someone who works at the MFA. I can't think of her name ... long brown hair ...
Me: Not the MFA. An MFA. The degree. Master of Fine Arts.
Kenny Rogers: [Blank stare] What kind of poetry do you write?
Me: Um. What kinds would you recognize?
Kenny Rogers: Excuse me?
Me: Poetry doesn't really taxonomize neatly. It's not like science. I mean, you can try to classify it after the fact--
Kenny Rogers: I took a poetry class once. We studied Bob Dylan.

*Not the real Kenny Rogers

And it continued in that awkward vein. I know I sound like the bitch here, but his tone was unbearably condescending. He kept talking about his grants (worth $13 million in toto) to build lobster and bee robots. Holy cliche oldster. I guess no one ever told him you can't buy friends. As party douches go, I preferred the black metal guy.

I've been reading the new Handsome. It strikes me as way better and more readable than the average journal, but maybe it's just really aligned with my tastes? I'm also (re-?)reading Why I Am White by Mathias Svalina. I don't think I ever read it front to back, I'm realizing. It's still hilarious. It's like:
A brief history of white people is a history of gears & boats & railroads. One named Frank.

Furthermore, white people are not considered so mysterious that they warrant the type of article National Geographic published. Furthermore, white people aren't scared of black people, they are scared of young black men. BIG difference
This chapbook was published in August of 2007. Stuff White People Like was created in 2008. Therefore, Christian Lander and SWPL were probably just riding the white-people wave that Mathias got started.

I've always wondered, is Stuff White People Like itself an entry on Stuff White People Like? I've never checked, and wouldn't know how.


  1. "I've always wondered, is Stuff White People Like itself an entry on Stuff White People Like?"

    i ask myself the same question every day (or at least once a month)

  2. Some questions are better left unanswered, I suppose.

  3. This is my favorite blog post I've read all day.

  4. I'd always kind of like to ask equally inane/unanswerable questions of those who ask "Who's your favorite poet?" and "What kind of poetry do you write?" Something along the lines of "What's your favorite surgical tool?" or "What kind of incisions do you make?" for a doctor.

  5. Okay, first, I'm sitting here trying to remember if I've ever even been to a cocktail party. But that's maybe for another blogpost, in another blog...

    Usually when I tell non-poets (or non-creative-artist types) that I write poems, "What kind of poems do you write?" is usually the first question that comes out of their mouths. And so, of course, how do you (how does one) answer that?

    "What kinds would you recognize?" Ha! Good answer. I'll file that one away for the next time. A spell to ward off trolls.

    And grant money to build lobster and bee robots? What the ?!#*%$&#!!??

    Actually in the Philip Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" there are robot animals -- at one point the narrator character in the novel comes across a small robot frog. The reason there are robot animals is that in the book most real animals have become extinct, on planet Earth in the not-too-distant future.

    Robot lobsters and bees. Not a good sign, I think.

    Years ago at some gathering of writers (nibble food, though no cocktails, as I recall) I got in a conversation with a woman there, a few years older than me, and when I said I was a poet, she immediately said, a little too sweetly, "Oh, you look like a poet!" Which didn't bother me at the time, though as a poet friend pointed out to me later, isn't always necessarily a compliment.

    She said she was a journalist, and it did occur to me later to wonder how she would have taken it, if I had immediately said to her, just as sweetly, "Oh, and you look like a journalist!"

  6. I do not want to be stuck in a plane next to your Kenny Rogers.

  7. When anyone (who did not recognize the man) asked Auden what he did for a living, Auden answered, "I'm a Medievalist." It is a good way to end conversation. My old, "I study classical Iranian philology" worked pretty well too. Maybe you need something more off-putting?

  8. yes, no good can come of telling the truth in these situations. next time I'm going to say I build bee robots.

  9. That's why I don't go to perties.

  10. "He kept talking about his grants (worth $13 million in toto) to build lobster and bee robots."

    I would not have laughed at this Scientist, I would have dropped my pants for him. Imagine him crouched over his robot lobster, eating it up in reverse! His mouth is full of metal morsels, he wields a tiny fork, he inserts the claw meat in.

  11. This post made me wonder what happens if you look up Wikipedia on Wikipedia. It's this:

  12. The notion of looking up Wikipedia on Wikipedia made me wonder what happens if you Google Google. So I tried it.

    In this case, it turns out that it does implode.

  13. this was like the best post ever