My new book, In a Dream I Dance by Myself and I Collapse, now available!

Very happy to announce the birth of my new novel, In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse. This book was the winner of the Mainline Contest at the wonderful press, Civil Coping Mechanisms, and it has been officially released.

Purchase your copy here now! And don’t hesitate to review on Goodreads and Amazon. Contact me at carolynzaikowski@gmail.com if you are interested in writing a formal review, doing an interview, or any other publicity questions. And don’t forget about my new website.

inadreamcover1

Cover design by Ryan Bradley

Here’s what folks are saying:

“What is Carolyn Zaikowski’s extraordinary In A Dream I Dance By Myself And I Collapse? Is it a fragmentary novel of pain, memory, and survival? Is it a handbook for finding beauty amidst suffocating violence? Is it an elegy? An incantation against decay, death, and loss? A plea for understanding in the face of the ineffable strangeness of being human? Or is it all these at once? Comprised voices, fables, dispatches, interviews, instructions, and gleefully subverted psychological questionnaires and medical intakes forms, Zaikowski weaves her kaleidoscopic tapestry in prose that is by turns blunt, raw, funny, searching, intimate, obsessive and shot through with bursts of radiant, destabilizing beauty. What a brilliant book.”
Gregory Howard, author of Hospice

notebook basket

The notebook basket where the original manuscript lives.

 

“Equal parts vulnerable, logical, affirming, and schematic, In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse is a frothing workbook with ‘Floating fractals everywhere.’ Like a vending machine stocked with formal innovation, fabulist imagery, and rigorous self-examination, Zaikowski drops goodies all the way through. This is a must for anyone invested in how a self processes the world–and how the world processes a self.”
Amy King, author of The Missing Museum, I Want to Make You Safe, and others

 

“Case studies. Quizzes. Announcements. Definitions. Interviews. Lists. Dreams. Carolyn Zaikowski’s In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse amalgamates these things into a workbook that is a novel doing a headstand. The emotional depth, generosity, and playfulness of this book makes want to write, and read on.”
Claire Donato, author of Burial

 

Part one of the In a Dream, I Dance by Myself, and I Collapse trailer triptych:

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

6/12/16

When words don’t do their job. When the notebook, pen, tongue, poetry, and music dance chaotically and alone trying to find themselves and then they collapse. Where do words go when we can’t have them? What lives there? How do we get there? Where do we go?

We see you. We love you. We witness you. You deserve every witness in the cosmos. You will have every witness. You are here. Love, we’re here. Love, we’re not going anywhere. Wait for us, love. We’ll keep saying all your different names.

 

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Telling them again and again about the sea

At my computer, there is, to other people anyway, a mess. Chapstick, earbuds, coffee mugs, papers to correct, a fruit bowl that used to have bananas in it, old flowers, and all manner of sticky notes, written upon and otherwise. I’m a big fan of lists and, in particular, lists that are written on sticky notes. I write and rewrite them, cross things out from the originals, update them with just one thing slightly changed as if trying to maneuver out of and master a repetition compulsion. I always thought this might be what Gertrude Stein was doing in “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” and wrote a convoluted paper about it in grad school after I’d counted that, within the five pages of the story, she says gay 125 times and cultivate/cultivated 27 times, plus the verb to tell seven times in the last three paragraphs. “Telling them again and again.”

I picture the information-gathering process in my mindheart as a cauldron out of which bubbles surprising artifacts, thought-objects, sometimes shadowy, sometimes enlightening, often just neutral or strange. Very often repetitive but only in the sense that they feel like spirals. The levels change slightly, offering new or old things, depending on whether you’re going up or down. It’s a fish-eye view of the world, looking upwards through an undifferentiated sea of things I don’t understand yet. Sometimes the wellspring surpasses sea status and becomes a flood. A full, bottom-up mandala. I push my way out of this in a manner that makes a lot of sense to me. A student said to me a while back, “Are you okay? You look upset.” I told him no, I wasn’t at all. If my facial expression were happening on the inside, looking at my mind instead of into the objective world, I’d have definitely seen myself as unaffected and plain. He revised: “Maybe you just look like you always have a lot of weird and intense stuff going through your head.” I told him yes, that was much more accurate.

One thing that’s been next to my computer for months now is a stray piece of paper on which I quickly transcribed the following from a dharma podcast I was listening to. The teacher was Annie Nugent and I believe the talk was titled, “The Nuances of Effort.” She was relaying a story about the Buddha talking to a deva:

“[The Buddha said] ‘by not halting and by not straining, I crossed the flood.’ Now, the flood is an analogy for the end of suffering. He went from suffering to the end of suffering by not halting and by not straining. So then the deva asks, ‘Well how did you do this?’ Just like we might ask. And so the Buddha says, ‘When I came to a standstill, friend, then I sank. But when I struggled, then I got swept away. It is in this way, friend, that by not halting and by not straining, that I crossed the flood.'”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Moby Dick WTF

On, after all these years, reading and finishing Moby Dick: what the shit did I just read?????? intensely macho and/or intensely queer novel? pre-waiting-for-godot, inside-out heart of darkness, deep-sea dive into the ugly psyche of colonialism and/or a celebration of it? the most brilliant, sprawling shitshow ever canonized and/or the most awfully edited, blundering shitshow ever canonized? accidental anti-woman all-man sausage party that fails the bechdel test to an almost humorous degree or a subconscious cultural statement about patriarchy? a book of true quality–wtf does that even mean–or a book that’s intellectually macho to read & is having an MFA dude moment & makes for an intellectual hunted head to hang on the library wall? anti-vegan, simplistic romanticization of violence against animals or the most epic vegan book ever in which the hunted hunts back and makes humans feel like how animals feel all the time? the human gaze mirrored back? an amazing exploration of the symbol of whiteness where whiteness=horror and death, and a subtle commentary on how white ppl are the actual savages? or something that no one other than a white man would have been able to publish and why isn’t kathy acker still alive to re-write it like she did great expectations, etc.? an animal carcass trying to tell itself via a man? as strange and subversive as shakespeare or just an accident of culture that we analyze and love only in hindsight? seriously, what the shit??? i don’t know what to think.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

No Pussy in the Pit: Boston Hardcore and the “Yankees Suck” Uber Jock Subculture

bostonhardcorebane

Boston Hardcore

I feel like people don’t believe me when I say, “I know that dude who made the Yankee Suck shirts and created the chant and it’s a really weird story”, but here it is in this embarrassing, yet totally, somehow, unembarrassed account, published in Grantland this week. The account captures the ethos of the 1990s hardcore music scene in the Boston area, much of which I was there for. It does so via the tale of the Yankees Suck franchise and the alleged Not Jocks who masterminded it, several of whom I knew. It relays anecdote after anecdote of the violence and narcissism that took place in the name of supporting and profiting from a sports team and brand. In doing so, it exposes a subculture trying so hard to be Not Jock that it spins full circle and becomes the worst possible rendition of Uber Jock to ever exist.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Uber Jockness is in the DNA of Boston Hardcore, given its original roots in militant bands like SS Decontrol who, as noted in this Rolling Stone piece on the notoriety of the scene, was led by “brawny ex-hockey player, Al Barile.” And at times, I want to believe the Grantland article is doing a crafty “show don’t tell” move, painting a picture whose nastiness is so obvious that it doesn’t need editorializing. But as I read it and read it again, I realized the article and its subjects, who smugly compare their lives to Fight Club, The Wire, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Miami Vice, are taking themselves very seriously. They seem truly not to realize the irony of how Not Jocks become Uber Jocks, and how this article is just another extension of the self-congratulatory myth-making that has always permeated Boston Hardcore.

First off, let’s get the biggest piece of mythology straightened out: the majority of these guys weren’t from Boston, or even its immediate surroundings. They were from wealthy suburbs, some over an hour away. Many of the folks highlighted in this article, including Ray LeMoine, screen-printer of kooky T-shirts and person I was friends with in high school, were from North Andover and Andover. To be clear, that’s about forty minutes north of Boston. Some went to elite high schools like Philips Academy. Many other “hardcore kids” I knew, including my high school boyfriend, were from the Lincoln-Concord area, one of the wealthiest places in the country, significantly west of Boston.

Is not being from Boston but implying you are, and potentially growing up in a McMansion, inherently bad? No. But leaving this out of the story becomes a pretty questionable move when you’re a white guy bragging about the luxury of spilling mustard on your thousand-dollar shoes, waving money around, and shouting angrily, “Listen, I’ll come back whenever I want to…this is my fucking bridge” in a place you aren’t actually from.

thewire2

Not Boston Hardcore

Any boy, now a man, around during this time would also really be stretching the truth if he didn’t remember that “no pussy in the pit” and “bros before hos” were the defining phrases of Boston Hardcore’s relationship to girls and women. Or that most of the girls we all knew were molested if they ever tried to mosh. Or the permeating ethos of “funny” homophobia and the hipster-izing of words like “faggot”. Or my queer friends who didn’t want to be in the vicinity of many of these hardcore kids for fear of their mental and physical safety. Or guy friends explicitly telling me they couldn’t play music with me because I was a girl, even though I had supported their music for years.

Or me being anorexic and having one of the most popular hardcore guys in Boston tell me, “You’re the kind of girl I’d love to show off at a show in Boston”. Or my super cool hardcore boyfriend and his friend, the singer of a well-known band, staring me down in Newbury Comics and telling me factually, after much discussion, that they’d decided I was hot because I had no boobs and looked like a little boy. And how when I expressed concern over the nature of such a statement, they said, “Don’t worry, it’s a good thing” and delved into a conversation about how stupid feminists are. Or how whenever I didn’t want to sleep with my super cool hardcore boyfriend, he’d say he was deeply disappointed in me, that I was a bad person, and that he would break up with me if I didn’t do my duty. Or how one time he yelled at me while we were having sex.   Of course, I can’t prove an inherent connection between rape culture and the potential rape subculture that was Boston Hardcore, but it’s pretty hard not to see one when a few minutes later he was chest-thumping in front of his mirror to In My Eyes, and a few days later he was yelling “bros before hos” and laughing about mosh-pit molestation with his friends at a youth crew show.

fight-club

Not Boston Hardcore

After a while, it starts to seem like a pretty disingenuous mental gymnastics routine to act like misogyny and other nasty white-guy privileges were peripheral to the scene and not a central pillar that defined and maintained it.

One of the worst things about these kinds of subcultures is the fact that there are only a few slots for the token women, and those women often try to destroy each other as they vie for the male attention they’ve come to believe will fulfill them. In 2004, the girlfriend of an FSU gang-member sucker punched me in the head at The Model, a dive bar in Allston. FSU, or Fuck Shit Up, was a group of Boston Hardcore guys who are still classified as a gang by the FBI. Their modus operandi, as far as I could register it, was starting fights on purpose and running away. That night at The Model, the whole bar had turned into a sea of violence with tables being turned over, beers being thrown, and people on the curb being stomped. I never saw the person who attacked me; there was just a mess of blond hair and a huge bouncer picking me up by my torso and throwing me aside. The owner of the bar shushed me, took me to the back alley, and told me to get away quickly, whispering that I wouldn’t want to be there when the cops came.

It turns out FSU has instigated it all, and that one of their members, who authorities had long been looking for, was there that night. I didn’t know anything about the FSU connection at the time; I didn’t realize that the bar owner was trying to have my back so I wouldn’t have to make a report. I swore off The Model and didn’t go back for over a year. When I returned, the waitress on staff said I looked familiar. I mumbled that it was impossible she knew me from the bar because I hadn’t been there since a massive fight broke out. “The FSU fight?” she asked, and went on to relay all the details perfectly to me. “The courts were looking for you. They caught some serious wanted person from FSU that night. They wanted you to testify but nobody knew your name.”

Was being around Boston Hardcore always like this? No. For instance, I’ll always hold my friend’s band Eulcid in my heart, who at one point refused to play shows if no women were on the bill. There were off-shoots of Boston Hardcore that understood radical and progressive politics pretty well, who were reclaiming the spirit of riot grrrl, feminism, and queer awareness, and many of those folks would probably say that they liked Boston Hardcore music. And when we became college-aged, many hardcore guys matured and realized pretty quickly that they’d participated in and supported a subculture of juvenile intolerance, sexism, and, at times, violence. Like normal people should, they grew up and were appropriately ashamed of the ways they acted as teenagers.

Like most other white male cultures and subcultures, Boston Hardcore boys enjoyed some token women like the singer of Walls of Jericho, who was repeatedly pointed to as a distraction from the fact that almost all other hardcore musicians were men. How could you be sexist if you liked Walls of Jericho? And it had its token people of color, including one of the founders of Fuck Shit Up, Elgin James. How could you be racist if your movement’s BFF wasn’t white? And there was even a token queer band, Limp Wrist, who I heard straight boy after straight boy cite when they were justifying their use of the word “faggot” and the word “gay” as an insult.

MIAMI VICE, (from left): Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, 1984-1989. Credit: Universal Television/Everett Collection

Also not Boston Hardcore

But on the whole, when examining the acts of entitlement, oppression, and violence relayed in the Grantland article—and that remain in the memories of anybody who was there and is being honest with themselves—it is hard not to ask: who else could have possibly gotten away with these things besides privileged white boys and men?

What people with darker skin could have possibly have gotten away with dumping grape soda on people and throwing someone’s stuff over a bridge onto the Mass Pike in public, as the boys in the article proudly spoke of?

In a country where black men are murdered in minutes by entire groups of cops for selling a few illegal cigarettes, who other than entitled white boys from a rich town could possibly have gotten away with regularly breaking into Fenway Park through wire fencing to sell illicit T-shirts, then admitting it and bragging about it without a second thought in an article on the internet?

Or imagine, in a world where Boston instituted martial law  in order to catch the Boston Marathon bombers, an Arab man or woman running illegally around the field during a World Series win?

Or what woman could, like the boys in the article, “splurge at Saks Fifth Avenue, then get mustard on their Prada shirts and never bother to wash the stains off…run up in clubs and bars with fake platinum chains and real Breitling watches, popping bottles and waving their cash around” without immediately being called a personality-disordered bitch or slut in need of medication?

And amazingly, according to the Grantland article, much of Boston Hardcore definitely didn’t like the “meathead jocks from Revere”. Of course, if you’re from Massachusetts, you know that Revere is a city about a thousand times more associated with actual Boston than somewhere like North Andover is. It is attached to actual Boston by the subway and is filled with working-class people who have actual Boston accents; the kind of people caricatured, for better or worse, in Saturday Night Live skits and Ben Affleck dramas. But what, exactly, made the hardcore Uber Jock so different than Jock Other from Revere? As far as I can tell from being there, Uber Jock and Jock Other had just about everything in common except that Uber Jock was rich, either having been born so or having become so through witty high-stakes T-shirt schemes. And Jock Other was dirty and poor. Working class Jock Other simply wasn’t relatable to the elite Uber Jocks. For them, “the money was enough to see the world. They’d hit Australia, Hong Kong, Jordan, the Philippines, Guatemala, Thailand, Haiti, Argentina, Japan — always in the baseball offseason. They went to Spain, had multicourse lunches in Bilbao, got high on Xanax on the lawn outside the Guggenheim. They’d splurge on food but sleep in cars…[more money for absinthe].” Uber Jock had class.

The Grantland article even relays the following completely tone-deaf tale of entitlement: “Once, in the heat of a melee, LeMoine didn’t realize he had squared up with an undercover police officer. Perhaps feeling good that day, the officer let LeMoine go with a warning and pat on the back…“[I heard] ‘Good fight, kid. Get on your way,’” LeMoine says. “Only in Boston can you beat up a cop and hear, ‘Nice fight.’”

And that’s just it. If you’re a privileged white man, you can beat up a cop and hear, “Nice fight.” But if you’re Arab and you beat up a cop, the whole city of Boston might go under lock-down to find and kill you. If you’re Black, you probably stay as far away from cops as possible, because one imperfect move and you’re shot in the face. If you’re a woman who seems like a threat to a cop, especially a woman of color, you’d be called a crazy bitch at best, or at worst, have your vagina forcibly searched or be abused, arrested, and die mysteriously in a holding cell. You certainly won’t be congratulated. And if you’re blue collar or homeless and don’t look classy enough to impress a cop, and you don’t have a trust fund doubling as a bail fund—perhaps if you were from, say, Revere—your life might be ruined because you couldn’t afford bail.

tenyardfight

Boston Hardcore

Repeatedly, according to the article and other popular mythology, we are supposed to believe these kids were punk, a term never defined accept through implications that they were rebels. They were on the right side of the “jocks vs. punks dichotomy”. But these rebels enacted every last cookie-cutter cliché of white male entitlement and stereotypical Jockness possible. Boston Hardcore kids, on the whole, were desperately trying to identify as the opposite of themselves, spitting out their psyche’s tortured teenage shadows for everyone else to deal with, projecting and vomiting their Jockness over anyone in their path. They never saw the resemblance between themselves and everything they supposedly hated. Of course there were individual exceptions to the rules and codes, but Boston Hardcore, at its core, was the utmost Uber Jock subculture, right down to the fact that girlfriends were called “coat racks” whose purpose was to hold their boyfriends’ stuff and cheer for them from the sidelines while they put on a big, physical show, got in fights, and called people “fags”. And right down to the fact that their favorite bands, like Ten Yard Fight and Slapshot, were sports-themed and their most infamous and proud series of antics revolved around baseball. In terms of behaviors and attitudes, there was literally nothing that differentiated them from the Jocks they so defined themselves in opposition to, beyond the fact that some of them played power chords. Just like Jocks mythologize their winning high school team, these hardcore Uber Jocks are mythologizing themselves ad infinitum. And apparently they’re not being ironic.

redsoxriiot

Red Sox Riot, 2004: Jock or Boston Hardcore Kid?

Just teenagers being teenagers and college kids partying? I wish, but now we’re well into our thirties and forties, and we’re still talking about it as if we’d definitely like to relive it, as if it were a movie as cool as Fight Club and a show as impeccably written and acted as The Wire, as if it were the legendary high school football game and we’re never going to be that completely and thoroughly good at life again. I understand the basic desire, maybe even the need, to be friends with one’s own past. But to be mythologizing such behavior without a critical frame, or at least a full frame that includes the stories of everyone who was harmed, and to be so completely unembarrassed, speaks to a much larger issue: the umbrella culture of white, straight, male entitlement, misogyny, and violence trickling down into its logical extension in subcultures.

We live in a time when the United States seems more full than ever of young, entitled white men Fucking Shit Up and being celebrated for it. We celebrate white men’s right to gunsto publicationsto fame and repute, to neocolonialist pursuits, and just about everything else they can get their hands on. Indeed, it’s not an exaggeration to say that self-congratulatory and entitled white men Fucking Shit Up seem to, in one way or another, be at the root of just about every last thing that’s gone wrong in the past five hundred years of human history. I’m glad I’m an adult now with the capacity to think critically and remove myself from situations teeming with such toxicity. And I can only hope a lot of the people I knew or knew of in Boston Hardcore have grown up. And that they’ll choose to hold their pasts with a bit more honesty and self-awareness, and with a willingness to make sure their own children, nieces, and nephews can inhabit a truly interesting and rebellious world.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Stop denying and unseeing rape subculture

Recently, several survivors/victims of assault in “writing communities” have come forward to speak out against male writers who abused them. This has spawned myriad well-intentioned conversations in which people have given lip service to the idea of “needing to focus on dismantling rape culture” while simultaneously denying—both explicitly and through their non-attention to the issue—that literary subcultures could possibly have anything to do with rape culture and insisting that we need to focus on the bigger picture.

Of course we need to talk about the bigger picture of rape-culture-in-general. Let me say that again so nobody walks away from reading this claiming I said otherwise: In no way should we stop examining the bigger picture of rape-culture-in-general. But if that’s really the goal, then we have to talk about rape subculture and stop trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. No culture, ever, has existed without subcultural manifestations which relate to it both directly and peripherally.

Rape subculture shouldn’t be a revelation. In fact, it’s something we-who-talk-a-good-feminist-game tend to understand pretty naturally when it’s someone else’s subculture. Progressive writer-folk will often be the first to connect rape culture to rape subculture when they see, for example, abuse within a given church community, misogyny in hip hop music, discrimination against women in the sciences, or communities of date-rapists in fraternities. Rape subculture isn’t that complicated to understand. It’s when people use the codes, norms, identities, spaces, behavioral idioms, and other structures of their subculture to allow, apologize for, and perpetuate rape. If rape-culture-in-general is the house, then rape subculture is what we fill up the rooms and paint the walls with.

Rape subculture in “alternative” communities is often doubly insidious because our individual and group identities are molded precisely around an idea that we are not that. We are not dumb jocks; we’re poetry freaks! We’re intellectuals! We know the language of feminism! We voted for Barack Obama! We’re vegans! We’re artists! We’re anti-authoritarians! We’re liberal hippies! We’re Buddhists! We’re alternative! And it is precisely this psychological investment people have in being “different” and “alternative” that makes rape subculture all that much more important to be aware of.

The following are just a few of the many examples of rape subculture manifesting in literary communities. Versions of these things can be seen in rape culture as a whole and in other rape subcultures. At the same time, these things cannot be separated from the literary world. They are very specific manifestations of abuse that will only be seen in, and have precisely to do with, literary spaces and paradigms. In fact, many of these things are examples of how literary subculture has played a major role in creating and maintaining patriarchy and rape-culture-in-general:

-Idol worship of living writers: This manifests in many different ways, such as certain writers getting a free pass to do things that, if they were “normal” people without idol or semi-idol status, would be immediately recognized as creepy. Certain writers get away with doing things because they are considered really cool, tortured geniuses (mental illness has a long history of being romanticized, as well as extremely misunderstood, among the literary), and/or just really kooky or funny.

-Knee-jerk silencing of detractors: When people, in various ways, call out the behavior or texts of rape subculture in the literary community, they’re often battered with a chorus of “stop being so politically correct! This is art for chrissake! Don’t censor [xyz].” This “waa waa political-correctness” whine is usually just a vague, knee-jerk way to silence a critical conversation about an individual or group’s behavior or art, as well as a simplistic method for privileging the voice of the offender over the voice of the offended. The outcome of “stop being so politically correct!” is usually that the offender is allowed to do or write whatever he wants in a public sphere while feeling entitled to others coddling him with positivity. Another way that writers routinely care-take the rape subculture around them is when, in a response to an offensive piece of writing or the offensive behavior of an idol, they say something to the effect of, “But you just don’t get it. You just don’t get what they’re trying to do [with xyz poem, story, statement, behavior, etc.]”

-Abuse of power: The classic example of power allowing people to get away with rape subculture in the literary world is creepy professors abusing or sleeping with students whose grades and/or careers they have the power to determine. Other examples include editors of prominent magazines, successful poets, and successful novelists using their clout to attract and abuse less powerful writers—often “unknowns” who are very young.

-Language: It should go without saying that writers are good at language. Poets, novelists, and other types of writers, when they are abusive, often use language in extremely complicated ways that cover up, erase, and promote literary rape subculture, whether it is in private conversations with the abused, or in public conversations on message boards, Facebook posts, in classrooms, or at conferences. At worst, this manifests as abusers actually making poetry or novels out of the “material” of their abusive exploits.

-Assault: Assaults committed at writing conferences, readings, afterparties, in MFA programs, and in other rooms of the literary world, become a part of the fabric of rape subculture by poisoning and making dangerous the places where literature happens.

-In-group/out dynamics and labels: People want to be a part of a perceived “in” group of poets or other writers, whether online or in a geographic location. The vulnerability and power play that accompany in-group/out-group dynamics and labels of all other cultures and subcultures apply here. People throw themselves and others under the bus for the sake of a larger group identity.

-Publishing disparity among genders: Please see VIDA’s Count and other statistics about how ridiculous the disparity is between men and women in publishing. This is a concrete and statistically verifiable manifestation of a subculture in which women systematically matter less than men. It is incredibly foolish to think that such a culture won’t inevitably lead to abuse.

-Other patriarchal publishing problems: Many publications refuse—either explicitly by declaration, or implicitly through silence and distancing—to publish works that are too “intense” and revolve around issues of assault or violence, works that deal with “women’s issues” and femininity, etc., often while over-representing works that have sexist or masculinist themes.

-Idol worship of dead writers: Many of the world’s most revered writers, from the beginning of the written history, are bastions of misogyny, sexism, and rape-culture-in-general. While it’s true that the talent or cultural worth of a writer is not inherently negated by that writer having been a creep or abuser, it’s also true that people in the literary world often uncritically worship and try to emulate such writers and/or refuse to engage in mature, complicated conversations about the implications of such writers and their works.

-Women as tokens: Women are often less than half (and often none or close to none) of the writers who are represented at readings, in publications, on syllabi, and in general spheres of literary influence and voice. When this is pointed out, a common defensive response is to hold up those individual women who are represented as proof that rape subculture and other systems of misogyny don’t exist, just like Hilary Clinton is often used as proof that discrimination against women in politics is over and Barack Obama is used to “prove” that we live in a post-racism world.

These are just a few examples specific to rape subculture in literary scenes. I invite people who partake in any other “subculture” or “alternative” culture to explore the specific ways in which rape culture trickles down there, too. We can’t insist on looking at the big picture without looking at the parts, and if we do refuse to look at the parts, we’re not going far enough in our commitment to dismantling rape culture. Our only hope at creating a new system is looking this one in the face to try and understand it. Only then can we make conscious decisions to be different.

To deny that rape subculture in the literary world is real, and an issue to be dealt with, is to deny that rape culture itself is real, and to fundamentally misunderstand how rape-culture-in-general works by filtering down through more localized, more specific systems. This denial and misunderstanding, even when well-intentioned, amounts to one more act of patriarchal silencing and erasure.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Body; to write

DARLINGS, HOW ARE YOU LOVING YOURSELVES THESE DAYS? ANSWER SILENTLY, OUT LOUD TO YOURSELF OR OTHERS, LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND SAY, “YEAH, THAT’S OKAY, DUH!”; BE LITERAL OR SYMBOLIC WITH YOUR ANSWER(S). REPORT BACK IF YOU LIKE. HERE ARE MY REPORTS FROM THE FIELD:

BODY OF POETRY REPORT

Secret little second-tier dream: I want to start a video series of myself (or another volunteer… I’ve got some folks in mind) demonstrating some of the sensory-somatic writing exercises I compiled in my last blog post, particularly the ones having to do with things like ice and annoying bodily positions. I also would semi-secretly like to start a video series of myself doing having intuitive physical outbursts towards the ends of maybe someday becoming a fitness guru-poet. I don’t have natural skill for filming things, but if you’d like to help me, holler my name in the direction of Massachusetts. Here are some beginner tiny Vines (courtesy of Siri Scott) of some movements I’d like to offer. Join me, and have full faith in your ability to KICK and REACH and PULL and be TOTALLY AWESOME INSIDE OF YOUR INSANE HUMAN CONTAINER (MODIFY AS NEEDED; YOU KNOW YOURSELF SO WELL!):

ONE: SCREW CROSS-FIT! DO POET-FIT! KICK IT! DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU CAN’T TOUCH YOUR FEET! KICK AND REACH! BE THE BODY THAT YOU ARE! GO TO YOUR OWN PLACE! THINK ABOUT WHAT FEET ARE! THE GLORY OF THE ENDS OF YOUR HANDS! HOLY SHIT! HANDS EXIST! LEGS! HAVING A BODY IS THE STRANGEST GODDAMN THING!

TWO: HANDSTAND IT, Y’ALL! EVEN IF YOU CAN’T! I CAN’T! DO IT ANYWAYS! IT’S THE EARTH PLUS YOU AND THE GROUND IS A PLACE TO KNOW, TO FLY AT! IF YOU FALL OVER OR CAN ONLY LIFT A LITTLE OR PRETEND, THAT’S FINE! FALLS ARE OVERRATED (UNLESS YOU ARE, LIKE, TWENTY FEET TALL… THEN THEY MIGHT HURT.) JUST MAKE SURE YOU ROLL AWAY FROM YOUR FALL SKILLFULLY, QUICKLY AND IN A WAY THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE YOUR FREAKING AWESOME NECK!

THREE: EVEN POET NERDS CAN DO PUSH UPS! IT FEELS GOOD TO BE STRONG AFTER A LIFETIME OF FEELING LIKE A CLUMSY, HEADY DORK! PUSH IT! PUSH IT! PUSH YO-SELF! IT’S YOU AND THE EARTH, MY LOVE! YOU PLUS EXISTENCE! WE ALL NEED STRONG ARMS TO CARRY THE TOTAL FUCKING WEIRDNESS OF LIFE! YOUR STRONG ARMS CAN BE MADE OF BODY OR SELF-SPIRIT, IT DOESN’T MATTER! WHATEVER YOU DO–THIS IS SO, SO IMPORTANT TO THE PRACTICE–DO NOT PRETEND THAT LIFE IS ANYTHING EXCEPT A HOLY, SHAMANIC, HORRIFYING, GLORIOUS, OVER-LIT FESTIVAL ON AN ALIEN LANDING PAD OF MUSK AND DAWN AND FLESH THAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED! TAKE IT LESS FOR GRANTED BY BEING ABLE TO HOLD IT WITH THOSE FIREWORK EXPLOSIONS THAT ARE YOUR FUCKING MUSCLES!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized