With what voice do I want to read out loud from The Self Unstable? Do I read with a full-throated Poetry voice or a playful wink-wink voice or with the voice of an oracle or a mystic hippie fortuneteller? I can’t decide, and maybe that’s part of the instability to which the title of this work alludes. Who is the self in these declarative prose poems? Elisa Gabbert uses the force of her tone and sentence structures to create authority, despite the fact that the identity of the speaker is neither fixed nor always recognizable. At the junction of aphorism, confession, and armchair philosophy, these prose poems delight in their ability to make profundity flippant and flip profound. Gabbert writes, “History is the news via consensus.” The speaker here doesn’t say anything we don’t already know, nor does she say it in a new or nuanced way. This axiom could, at first, be met with a little eye roll, with a “duh.” But Gabbert subverts the power of her declarative tone by playing with the declaration: “And then they add mood music.” And then I laugh out loud.
I reviewed the proofs for these pieces about voting and violence and history and war and the news during the week of the Boston marathon bombings. I was in the coffee shop in Golden where I spent many mornings this semester (I had finally stopped thinking of years in terms of semesters, when John started teaching college). John's intermittent vertigo and dizziness prevented him from driving for several weeks, so on days he felt well enough to teach, I would drive him to his 9 a.m. class and work down the street, drinking iced coffee even on the days that it snowed. We listened to the news obsessively that week, though half the time John couldn't hear it. Reading those pieces again, it struck me that my poetry has never seemed more topical or politically relevant. But weeks have passed; perhaps they're irrelevant again.
Thanks to Whitney and to Andrew Wessels for featuring my work.
In other "news": My pal DB just sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic by the guy who teaches the "Navigating Pornography" course at Pasadena City College. He sort of lost me here though:
Part of equipping students to navigate porn means giving them the tools of feminist analysis. Pornography traditionally revolves around the production of images of women for the pleasure of heterosexual men. Feminist critics like Andrea Dworkin, Gail Dines, and Robert Jensen help my students to see the ways in which porn can construct and reinforce misogyny. At the same time, my students examine the limitations of familiar feminist anti-porn critiques. Research suggests that nearly as many young women as men watch (or, if you prefer, "use") porn for masturbation fodder, making it increasingly difficult to characterize porn watching as a primarily male pastime.
If you click through to the links in the highlighted section, neither of them says that "nearly as many young women as men watch porn." According to the second link, which hyperlinking protocol suggests should include the relevant stat: "In the first three months of 2007, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, approximately one in three visitors to adult entertainment Web sites was female; during the same period, nearly 13 million American women were checking out porn online at least once each month." If 1 in 3 visitors were female, that means 2 in 3 were male. Hence, twice as many. How does half as many translate to "nearly as many"? Is that the new math?
Have I mentioned how much I hate The Atlantic? Of course I have. Nevertheless, this comment thread about chickens gave me great pleasure this morning:
Chickens are highly sentient. They form long-term friendships. They seek pleasure. They have good memories. They learn to play video games. They grieve (I've seen it). They have empathy. They play. They are curious. They understand object permanence sooner than a human baby does. They are aware of others, which is more important than self-awareness.
Chickens play video games?