Monday, May 28, 2007

sexing the marrieds

One of the things that’s puzzled me about the marriage debate – i.e., who gets to – is, if marriage is going to be restricted (via constitutional amendment, even if only state constitutional amendment), when will the time come that the government will face the problem of defining once & for all what a man is, what a woman?

An essay by Alice Dreger at the Intersex Society of North America website recently came to my attention. She talks about the experience of the International Olympic Committee in determining who gets to participate as a woman or as a man. Dreger says, “There isn’t any rational way to decide, in many cases.” Naturally, rationality and human behavior coincide accidentally, but, what the hey, law likes to claim it’s all about rationality, so let’s play pretend.

“The International Olympic Committee [IOC] figured out the high frequency of intersex the hard way. Before the 1936 games, athletes were allowed to sort themselves out. But then Hermann Ratjen cheated by trying to pass himself off as a woman and, though Ratjen lost, he set Olympic officials off on a quest for the ultimate divider of males and females. First they tried genital exams, but that didn’t work so well. They found that a lot of athletes had confusing parts. (Intersex.) Then in 1968 the IOC turned to buccal smears for would-be competitors in female sports. The idea was to rout out anyone with a Y chromosome. That didn’t work well either; a number of women athletes had Y chromosomes because they were born with androgen insensitivity syndrome [AIS]. (Intersex again.)

“…For a few years, the IOC in fact did try to insist that AIS women were men; once they figured out which women had AIS, they tried to get them to give back their medals. But the medical establishment, to its credit, rallied around these women and explained the facts of biology—especially intersex—to the IOC. And so the IOC finally gave up gender verification.” A genetic XY with AIS is actually at a disadvantage when competing against an XX athlete as AIS prevents all metabolization of testosterone, whereas XX athletes can take advantage of some.

“If history is any guide, as gay marriage prohibitions make their way through the courts, a scientific expert here and a medical expert there will offer up one little gene or one type of anatomical tissue that might be used as a male-female sorting mechanism. But such a sorting system simply won’t accord with what people see on the outside and feel on the inside. The fact is, every anatomical bit you think of as female (breasts, XX-chromosomes, even ovarian tissue) can be found on someone who has looked and felt like a male since birth. The opposite is also true.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

anywhere at any time

Rachel Dacus decided to try the National Poetry Writing Month poem-a-day exercise. She writes about it on her blog: “[I]magination is like any muscle. As any dancer or athlete knows, the more you stretch and tone, the more articulate that muscle becomes. Writing a poem a day, even a stinky poem, strengthened that muscle to the extent that I don't fear the blank page or the need to write as much as I did at the start of April. … Inspiration (as they call it) is mysterious. But what I discovered was that it's always lurking under the surface.”

I left the following comment:

I went to a poetry reading last night. During the break I got some sangria and chatted with a couple strangers. Then I ran out of schmooze and thought to myself, If I'd brought my poetry notebook I would sit down and write a poem.

Then again I do carry loose paper in my travel pack and I had the portable writing surface of a library book (a mystery by Joseph Hansen) so I pulled out paper, pen, and book and started writing. The poet/audience member next to me later said, "Were you writing a poem?"

When I acknowledged the fact he said, "You've got more balls than me."

I can write anywhere at any time. All it takes is giving oneself permission to write crap. Many a first draft written under ideal circumstances is crap, anyway. And sometimes writing in the midst of distraction leads you to interesting places. On the other hand, it wasn't all THAT chaotic in the break between readers at a poetry event.

Monday, May 14, 2007

which is the poem?

At her blog Reb Livingston was pondering publication. What is it? She was at a conference where, she discovered, “Apparently I was the only person in the room (world?) who doesn't consider posting a poem on a blog or personal website to be the equivalent of publishing in a magazine (either online or print).” She likens the blog poem to the poem read aloud “in front of 100 people” or printing up “500 copies of a poem … and hand[ing] them out to people on the street.” Surely neither of these can be considered publication?

I left the following comment:

On one of my blogs I version poems. I've been going thru 20-yr-old poetry notebooks and taking out poems I think have potential, I post the poem on the blog, make a few comments on it, then post revisions separately and comment on them. Even though, so far as I know, I have no readership for these, I imagine readers intrigued by the disappearing comma of version 3, the exploded cliche of version 8. At least one of these versioned poems has subsequently been published. The published version differs fairly slightly (but, to me, significantly) from the last version that appeared on the blog. I don't think of the versions as published. Each version exists and is accessible. Which is the poem?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

if I mean to mean

At Geof Huth’s blog he says, “As writers or artists, our role is not to interpret our work; ours is to create a work upon which interpretations can be built. The experience we create is not the message of the work, but the work itself. Even misunderstood or not understood works can be experienced. Our job is merely to create those experiences, not to create their interpretations.”

I left the following comment: I've made this argument about visual art. Such a work can be experienced by anyone not blind. Beyond that one works with one's box of interpreting tools -- one's cultural assumptions, one's experience in looking at art, etc.

The field is less wide when you're talking language art as such arts are built from meaning objects. Language is an act of interpretation.

Vispo is somewhere between the two.

The point of my second paragraph is not that there is only one interpretation for a work. Rather I mean to say one must start with the meanings of the words/phrases. Our role as artists should include interpreting our work. You had an interpretation of the abed piece. That is a good thing. Knowing what the piece is saying assists in the crafting.

Naturally, once it exists independent of author, the piece is available to a myriad of interpretations as its new context is that of the lives/thoughts/experiences/philosophies of the reader/viewer.

I don't claim to know what my pieces mean. (I won't insist a poem doesn't mean what you think it means.) I have readings for my poems. But they mean what they mean, which is not necessarily what I think I mean or imagine I mean, even if I mean to mean something which sometimes I don't. (Meanings will accrue, no matter.)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

zombie government & other quotes

"Alberto Gonzales is now among the political undead -- not alive, but unvanquishable in his own liminal existence." -- Josh Marshall


"It’s a Justice Department that is running amok." -- Tom DeLay on being investigated by the FBI

"We are very comfortable that the Justice Department is proceeding properly and expeditiously." -- DeLay's attorney

quotes from TPM muckraker


“The fastest way to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is probably for us to leave and let the Iraqis do it themselves.” – Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly


“Within moments of handing a piece of paper with the words ‘Don't Discriminate’ to a person who asked me for it, I was grabbed, my wrists and arms twisted to near breaking behind my back. I was shoved down a hallway, banged against a wall and slammed to the ground.” -- Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, describing her arrest for handing out fliers at the city council meeting where the city manager was fired for being transgender. When felony charges against her were dropped, Nadine said, I’m supposed to be “bathed in relief”?

Monday, May 07, 2007


My sister Sevilla has begun crafting dolls. Something to do in her tiny Alaskan town, a small plane flight from anywhere? The doll looks happy. Nice toes.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


The new LoveSettlement! Somehow my archives had become inaccessible, so I knew I had to change something. Before I did that, though, I wanted to make sure I had everything saved. Yesterday I went through and copied to my computer what I hadn't as yet. Today I decided to see what I could do to resurrect the archive. New template seemed to be an answer. So here it is. New template. And now I find I'm able to change all sorts of stuff without having to troll through tiny print html coding to figure out where to effect the change. Does this mean LuvSet will be afflicted by all sorts of new snazziness?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

exercise's completion

And love lasts past
thank you, she says, folding this
that you placed in her hands,
and fall, the time of year
someone left on a doorstop to wrinkle,
your shoe impressing its pattern on the face
stands startled in a tumble
your soft heart dimpled by a raindrop
landing hard as a period.

What, starved of home, compares
Now there, now here, to an hour
from both ends. A dry kiss, a
wet kiss, a kiss laid open, a kiss
that could settle into a pillow,
or, buried among papers, could
but hear what wants up.
Of pulling, she says, she’s had to
remind herself, she's done.
The soft is softer.

comments on exercise

Sunday night Alan Bern came over for our poetry group. The other member of the group had a bad ol' headache so missed out. After we workshopped a poem by Alan and a poem by me Alan admitted he hadn't come up with any clever writing exercises. As I'm rarely at a loss, really, I pushed my poem across the table to Alan and told him to fold it in half lengthwise. I did the same to his. What remained of his poem is what you see below. Now, I said, write a poem using the words/line fragments as you see them on your paper. Complete the lines. I used Alan's as beginnings.

exercise's beginning

And love

Thank you
that you
and fall

Someone l
your shoe
and start
your soft
landing h

What star
Now there
from both
wet kiss
that could
or buried
but hear
of pulli

The soft