pomelo * rosa

A week of poet-delights!  Restoration arrived in the mail, a surprise gift from heart-of-gold poet Christina Pugh.  Then I attended a reading by Louise Glück, whose A Village Life sold out within minutes after her question & answer session ended.
A Village Life: Poems

From morning until late afternoon, I sat under a grapefruit tree reading psalms… one after another… until rust-colored hummingbirds shrieked at me in hummingbird language: “Eeeeeee!”

I wasn’t even reading aloud.

The last time I presented a threat to hummingbirds, I was using my power drill to uproot an old satellite dish my association deemed unsightly.

How do you say, “Peace. I mean no harm,” in hummingbird language?

My little English department sponsored a regional conference, where I enjoyed fellowshipping with over 90 attendees.  We hosted 25 panel sessions with approximately 75 presenters.  “Just add mini-cheesecakes, fresh fruit, and cucumber sandwiches,” I said. “Presto! Now we have instant Bloomsbury… within budget.”

So, all that’s left for the rest of the semester are registration week, two annual assessment meetings, one assessment report, one action plan for next year, a smattering of committee work with “next steps,” one year-end internal budget review, appreciations to the adjunct instructors, capstone portfolios to evaluate, papers to grade, final catalog edits, one survey monkey (pas de jokes ’bout survey zebras or survey giraffes or survey elephants, s’il vous plaît), and other quixotic miscellania.

God will carve out quiet spaces for me to review my notes for a lecture at Cal State and a reading at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, both later this month.

None of this goes forward without prayer… we are nothing without grace.

*

I had fallen
asleep in the sunlit
room    the only sunny
room in the house

and I dreamed
you were talking:
Well, and don’t
you see,
your voice

rising as in clear
discovery    (Fact
is the sweetest
dream
)     your hands

in transport    to drape a large
book    an atlas
its jacket as an ocean
several pages

–from Restoration (TriQuarterly Books 2008)
by Christina Pugh

cecilia * paredes

This past week, I was honored to meet Sara Slawnik, Program Director for the Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts & Media at Columbia College Chicago.

Sara led three of us on a special guided tour of “Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art,” an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center.  

Our small group included Jillian Sandell, Chair of Women’s Studies at SFSU.  Jillian actually remembered me from our days at Berkeley, since she was in the doctoral program at the same time I was… I was just starting, though, while Jillian was already ABD.

Many *stunning* art exhibits are worthy of mention, a few spotlighted here.  

“Tsumugi, Estelle, and Kwanyi”
Miwa Yanaga
Chromogenic Prints
Miwa Yanaga asked Japanese women what they would dream of doing 50 years from now.  One example:  “The sounds I play are not for human ears. / In late winter the plucking of the koto welcomes the spring./ With a tap it reverberates, shaking the earth; / the mountains awaken.”

As Sara observed, the young Japanese women described solitary creative pursuits such as playing a koto in a beautiful forest or writing in a house of one’s own.  Question, then:  Why not play the koto… or write in your own house now? 

“No”
Maimuna Feroze-Nana
India ink drawn on paper
Extremely powerful installation against ritual bridal burning.  Using India ink, Maimuna drew contours of women and wedding dresses and wrote “no” all over them, i.e. “no no NO no NO NO no no no.” I absolutely loved it.

“Cut Piece” – Videos
Yoko Ono
March 21, 1965 at Carnegie Hall
September 2003 in Paris, France
Yes, the 1965 performance by Yoko Ono is well-known.  Audience members approach Yoko and snip off little pieces of her black dress as a camera circles around her, shot-reverse-shot of scissors, dress, Yoko’s terrified eyes.  

I felt angry & helpless watching this public harassment of Yoko. I felt confined to role of “silent witness” who is complicit.  Although this happened to Yoko in the past, I wanted to write “no NO NO no no NO” in permanent marker all over the place.  

In the 2003 performance, an older & famous Yoko is stoic, even defiant as little pieces of her dress are snipped off by audience members.  The camera, as Sara pointed out, is completely still in this video – no circling or shot-reverse-shots. 

Both are powerful performance pieces about the objectification and violation of women.  The physical act of picking up a pair of scissors and snipping away a piece of a woman’s protective covering is not that much different than the male spectator gaze – power, control, domination that renders her a voiceless object w/o dignity or agency.

“The Flight”
Cecilia Paredes

This is a sculpture installation… ten small floating dresses crafted from feathers, coral, boar’s teeth, other natural “found” materials.  Cecilia is a Peruvian-born photo-performance artist and sculptor.  I loved the way the small floating dresses, suspended on fine wires, turned quietly in the stillness of the room, each its own eloquent poem among sister-poems.

international * women’s * day

Today is International Women’s Day: “International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.”

*

This afternoon, we discussed feminist perspectives on “The Lady of Shalott” by Tennyson in my British Literature Survey course.  We ended partly by surmising what Aurora Leigh (of the eponymous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning) and the Lady might say to one another.  Needless to say, lots of great insights from students who continually inspire me!

*
“Portrait of the Transnational Woman Warrior as a Young Korean Woman” is the title of a paper I’ll present at Columbia College Chicago after Spring Break.

The conference includes a guided tour of the Chicago Cultural Center to view an exhibition, “Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, & Art,” addressing violence against women. The exhibit includes work by Yoko Ono – who isn’t just “John Lennon’s widow,” et cetera – although that she certainly is, but an artist, poet, and musician in her own right, too.

*
Prayer: For women everywhere… past, present, and future.

karen * tei * yamashita

    

Update on Los Angeles adventures… If you plan to attend the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in late April, I’ll be reading from my latest works, with gratitude to Elena and Ann for organizing the Poetry Stage at this annual event. 

A partial list of L.A. Times Festival of Books appears below from the “L” section of their line-up.  There will be an appearance by the adorable celebrity puppet, “Lamb Chop!!”   

Jessica Hagedorn, Karen Tei Yamashita, Elena Karina Byrne, and Yiyun Li will participate, too, as will my new poet-friend Teresa Chuc (representing New Poets of the American West) and actress Jamie Lee Curtis, who writes children’s books.   

I’ll also read & lecture at California State University, Fullerton on Thursday, April 28 as a featured speaker for National Poetry Month and Asian Pacific Heritage Month.  Many thanks to Jie & her colleagues for organizing the event – so efficient, courteous & poetry-friendly!

*
Prayer:  Gratitude for open doors to share….what?  Love?  “Connectedness?”  Community?  A listening heart or hearts?  Dialogue?

All of the above, I s’pose, and more…….

swan * scythe

One thing I love about my little college is the library, where I’ve spent hours upstairs & downstairs browsing the faith-based collections, especially spiritual autobiographies.

A fig tree with huge elephant-ear-leaves shades our stone-and-glass edifice.

If you walk quickly alongside the tinted mirror-glass, your image vanishes into shelves and shelves of books…. this tickles me to no end!  If I had the gift of “disapparation,” I’d love to vanish into books.

Last month, I borrowed Julian of Norwich’s Book of Showings, this edition.  I taught a fragment of Julian’s text in the first phase of our British Lit Survey course this past autumn.

See Julian’s profile under “300 Women Who Changed the World.”

*
Swan Scythe Press holds a dear place in my heart since it published my first chapbook almost 10 years ago.  Please submit to the annual chapbook contest.

To see Swan Scythe’s diverse & beautiful books, click here.

*
Prayer: “All shall be well/ and all shall be well/
… and all manner of thing shall be well.” ~ Julian

sei * shōnagon

Delightful things in January, à la Sei Shōnagon (c. 966-1017).

Roses the size of dim sum dishes (delightful) not yet “dead-headed” on my little college campus.  Blueberries for sale in winter.  Singing “happy birthday” in Mandarin Chinese while washing plates & glasses just because I feel like it (today is no one’s birthday that I know).  Roses are forming bright red-orange rosehips (delightful)… I’m tempted to pluck ’em to make rosehips tea (simple & delightful recipe here, plus rosehips jam).

Sore throat (not delightful) after lecturing on British Romantic ekphrastic poetry (delightful) then drinking hot chamomile tea with licorice root, slippery elm, & ginger (delightful) … and sore throat vanished (very delightful).  On-ramp to I-5 Fwy closed (ugh, not delightful at all) but I found an alternate junction (delightful). Grateful for 70-degree weather when one can wear light dresses “like summer in the midst of winter,” Marguerite Duras once wrote (delightful).

 

Prayer:  “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

amy * uyematsu

Los Angeles adventures continue at this week’s MLA Convention, where I’ll preside & present on the session, “Transnational Feminist Spaces.”

Our brilliant panelists are Josephine Park, author of Apparitions of Asia (Oxford U. Press) and Director of Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania; erin Khuê Ninh, author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter (NYU Press) and a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara; see my August interview with Professor Ninh here.

Our respondent is the splendid poet Sandra Lim, author of the award-winning Lovelist Grotesque (Kore Press) and a professor at the University of Massachusetts.  Professor Lim reads on the audio poetry CD, Autumnal: A Collection of Elegies.

On a special excursion to the Huntington Library, fifty of us will go behind the scenes to learn about digital preservation &  material book culture.  Prior to university teaching, I worked part-time in archives & special collections, so book preservation – in any shape, spirit, or form – fascinates me.   Many thanks to the MLA for arranging this!

 

*

On Saturday, January 22, I’ll read with Amy Uyematsu (amazing poet-mathematician!) and poets of Indivisible: Anthology of South Asian American Poetry at the Japanese National Museum in Los Angeles.  Thanks to Pireeni Sundaralingam for coordinating this event!

   

Prayer:  Heartfelt gratitude to poet-friends who share their time, love & vision freely & with marvelous grace.  This world is a brighter ‘scape!