Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chapter 79: In Which I Discuss Graduation

I didn't go to my graduation ceremony in 2005. I was in a unique position, as many of my friends were a year ahead of me, and by graduating early I had the chance to walk across the stage with them. But Pitt is a large school. The idea of cramming into an ampitheatre for several hours and watching people I don't know receive papers sounded exhausting.

I am going to the Mills graduation. Mills is manageable. I went out and bought the gown and such, and I'm feeling the pageantry. There's something inherently youthful about a college graduation. For a day, it will be just like high school. That sense of endings and beginnings. Sharing that sense of accomplishment with your friends. Of course, we are not youths. The student speaker is a woman in my department, one of the oldest people in the program. But graduation is one of life's rituals intertwined with hope for the future. I should do it once in my life.

On a personal note, it is a celebration I share entirely with my Mills cohort. My family, blood and otherwise, is on the east coast. Two years of living in Oakland and I haven't made any close friends outside of school. Yes, I know people, but nobody willing to travel long distances to see me graduate. My social circle has primarily consisted of hippies of various degrees of sketchiness, foisted upon me while living at the collective house. So graduation reminds me how isolated I've been. If I stay in the area I hope this will change.

The time flew by. It absolutely flew.


No tour this year. I made a decision to focus exclusively on my manuscript. Even organizing a brief tour (which I've done before, on short notice) seems too much of a distraction from the writing. I want this book to be the best it can be, so I'm making it my only priority. Still hoping for a big cross-country tour down the line. You know, if we all survive the Mayan prophecy.

On a similar note, my tour mate from last year is doing her own tour! The inimitable Kim Vodicka is putting out her first book of poetry in June. The title is Aesthesia Balderdash, which sounds just mind-warping enough to be a Kim Vodicka book title. I believe she's only 23 or 24, so of course I'm insanely jealous that she's both successful and young. But seriously, she's one of the more talented artists I've met in recent years, and I've been fortunate to spend these last few years in the company of artists. Excellent wordplay, and it comes to life even more when she recites it. Here's the tour info. If you are in any of these cities, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Kim Vodicka/Ben Kopel Sui-Southern Book Tour 2012!
Greetings, friends and fiends!

Ben Kopel and I will be celebrating the release of our first full-length poetry collections by rambling around doing readings and signings south of the Mason-Dixon! Check out the dates/locations listed below, and if you/anyone you know who ...
might be interested will be in any of these areas at these times, SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS!

June 7th: Casa Azul (Grand Coteau, LA) 7:00pm
June 17th: Artmosphere (Lafayette, LA) 7:00pm
June 19th: Brazo's Bookstore (Houston, TX) 7:00pm
June 20th: Book Woman (Austin, TX) 7:00pm
June 22nd: Lucky Dog Books, hosted by WordSpace (Dallas, TX) 7:00pm
June 23rd: Nightbird Books (Fayetteville, AK) 7:00pm
June 24th: Java Cabana (Memphis, TN) 7:00pm
June 26th: Lamplighter Lounge (Memphis, TN) w/ Fille Catatonique 10:00pm
June 27th: Little Professor Book Center (Birmingham, AL) 6:00pm
June 28th: Emory University (Atlanta, GA)
June 29th: Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA) 6:30pm
July 2nd: Location TBA (Oxford, MS)
July 3rd: McKeown's Books and Difficult Music w/ Anne Marie Rooney (New Orleans, LA)

About Kim:

Poet Kim Vodicka grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana and received her B.A. in English from UL Lafayette in 2010. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in Poetry at LSU, where she is also a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Co-Coordinator of Delta Mouth Literary Festival 2012. Kim is an avid lover of music, hosts a psychedelic rock show, "Shangri-La-La Land," on KLSU, and is involved in musical-poetic projects. She believes that poems want to be songs very badly, and she can recite most of her work from memory. She is the author of the self-published chapbook Hustle, featuring poems and collages constructed from pornographic literature. Her artwork has been published in Tenderloin, and her poems have been published in Shampoo, Ekleksographia, Dig, and Spork (forthcoming). Aesthesia Balderdash (Trembling Pillow 2012) is her first full-length collection.

Praise for Aesthesia Balderdash:

“Belatedly—like everything we wait for—Kathy Acker’s great, I mean really great, grand‐daughter appears…in Louisiana...Her ‘blood runneth cheesecake’ who penneth this collection of see-sick lyrics drunk w/ semantic play...Vodicka’s Aesthesia Balderdash sisters the disaster of gender in ways that matter: ‘chronically, / abashedly, / rosily, cockily, / dazzlingly.’ Not for the faint of art, this is poetry that cunts, I mean counts.”

--Laura Mullen, author of Dark

North Carolina

For the record, Jesus Christ never said anything about homosexuality. The hatred of gays, while known to pop up in old Jewish fairy tales, is simply not a part of the Christian faith. Never was.

Also for the record, I'm possibly doing PhD in Lousiana, and whenever I mention it people get this look in their eyes, a kind of despair for me, and say with a quiet trepidation that the South is "different." Californians: your precious state ALSO illegalized gay marriage. It's America. There's oppression everywhere.

North Carolina's not the first state to write hate into its constitution, certainly won't be the last. Thirty-eight states have outright turned their hate for LGBTQ people into law. The marriage thing, like marriage in general, is mostly symbolic. It is to shove down the minority's throat what they cannot have, so they know they are inferior and never demand their rights.

It's been obvious for a while that America's sliding into a more oppressive nation. The people who run the country feel their grip slipping, resulting in the extremist measures of the last two years or so. The parts that scare me the most are the security-related measures that always seem to fly under the radar while people wave Bibles and talk about marriage. Stuff like the army being able to indefinitely detain American citizens. Like sound cannons and tanks in the streets of Oakland. Jackboot thugs have been gaining more power since 9/11 and the only language they know is violence.

The cultural progress I have more hope for. I'm sorry, you can't turn back the clock. You cannot make gay people go back in the closet and feel like they're diseased and perverted. You cannot turn women into cattle and livestock. Hell, even in the Middle Ages/Biblical periods, which your average conservative idolizes so much, a woman could serve as head of household and find ways of agency. Reverting back to the complete patriarchy of Abraham's time is not possible.

Abraham had lots of slaves. Those aren't coming back either. Black people aren't going to go away. Yes, yes, lazy, drugs, welfare, blah blah blah. You don't like us so I guess we should just accept every indignity you throw at us. Um, the president's black. Something has progressed.

I've been a cautiously hopeful person ever since the Arab Spring. It was a truly beautiful moment that continues to have ripple effects among the oppressed of the world. This one thing I know: Progress can be fought but it cannot be stopped. All the hatemongers have guaranteed for themselves with crap like Amendment One is a battle. They will continue to want their will imposed on others, and those others will continue to balk.

It's not always bloodless. One of my favorite stories in American history is Nat Turner's rebellion. A hugely inspirational battle for freedon. The story goes that he murdered his own master, thereby freeing himself with his own hands. This could just be Braveheart-style romanticizing, who knows. What is not in dispute is that the rebellion was an act of progress against slavery, the worst injustice ever perpetrated by man on another. What happened afterwards? The whites hung Nat and his crew, then proceeded to massacre hundreds of slaves just to set an example.

See a pattern? Those in power feel they are slipping and resort to extreme measures. The peaceful protestors in Egypt suffered casualties. Think about it: every person in those demos knew their police force had no problem murdering civilians. They were out there anyway. They made the choice. I cannot think of greater courage.

A poet friend of mine once expressed the fear that when the inevitable "shots fired" happens in America, it will be some Tea Party person or related right-wing supremacist. This is possible. God knows Jim Crow Laws were not enough to stop oppressors from terrorism. Amendments might not be enough for them. Laws that equate women to cattle might not be enough for them.

I don't know. They have to lose. History repeats, sure. But it does not reverse. It can only go forward.

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