February 2010 Archives
This particular film is the one that led the UN in 2008 to classify rape as a weapon of war.
It screens at the Ross, which is hosting the film festival Women Make Movies: Women Changing the World. It begins today and runs through March 11, and if you're a student or a senior, you can get a pass to all of the films for $15. A full-price pass costs $25 and lets you into all 13 astonishing, award-winning movies from around the world.
Here's the info on Saturday's screening and talk:
THE GREATEST SILENCE
with speaker Megan Watson, PhD, LMHP
Saturday, Feb. 27 - Film begins at 1:00
Discussion following film (approx. 2:20 p.m.)
Admission to the discussion is free and open to the public. Admission
to THE GREATEST SILENCE is at regular Ross prices.
Megan Watson is a psychologist in private practice who works with
treating immigrants, refugees, and torture survivors. Watson does
trauma work and focuses on culturally competent, holistic treatment.
Before its closure, Watson spent three years working at the FIRST
Project, a torture treatment center in Lincoln.
THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO
Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Prize in Documentary and the
inspiration for a 2008 U.N. Resolution classifying rape as a weapon of
war, this extraordinary film, shot in the war zones of the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), shatters the silence that surrounds the use
of sexual violence as a weapon of conflict.
The late, great Lucille Clifton left us this:
For bracing, unflinching honesty about the self and others, check out Natasha Trethewey's two new father poems in the latest issue of New England Review. From "Elegy," addressed to her father, about fly-fishing together:why some people be mad at me sometimes
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
and i keep on remembering
I can tell you now
that I tried to take it all in, record it
for an elegy I'd write--one day--
when the time came. Your daughter,
I was that ruthless. What does it matter
if I tell you I learned to be?
And from "Knowledge" (which, unfortunately, isn't available online), from an 1864 drawing of four Victorian men dissecting and studying a naked female corpse:
I love the way both poems go to the mat, and I love the way they jostle together an uneasy mix of feelings with such clarity and precision.. . . how easily
the anatomist's blade opens a place in me,
like a curtain drawn upon a room in which
each learned man is my father
and I hear, again, his words--I study
my crossbreed child--
Today I meet with the four grad students who've chosen to do teaching internships with me. They're great women (is it a coincidence that they're all women?), but I have to say it's pretty weird being observed, class after class after class. We meet regularly to discuss pedagogy and professional issues. They keep journals; I read them. They notice everything. I've never done this before, and it's a little unnerving. I hope it all turns out to be useful to them.
My grandfather passed away on Monday night. He was 88. I never knew him. Rest in peace.
It's a strange, ambivalent, disturbing time. My birthmother would very much like me to trek across the snowy Midwest for his funeral. I am mourning Lucille Clifton, whom I know only through her words, with more real grief.
This is the man who features on page 1 of The Truth Book as the reason my birthmother left her home state to conceal her pregnancy and give birth across the country.
This is the man who, when I met him in my late twenties, was no longer brutal, no longer scary. Yet, while civil enough, he was nonetheless incurious about me, uninterested in forming a connection. We've exchanged perhaps thirty words, total, at gatherings in the years since then. He was very nearly a stranger.
Adoption does weird things to the psyche. When I heard the news of his death, I immediately got shaky, sad, sick--despite the fact that I know my grocer better. When I learned that he died peacefully at home, propped up so he could see the farm he loved, I felt grateful. Some impulses are powerful. Ancestors. Familia.
Yet, although I know it would please his daughters, my birthmother and aunts, whom I care about, I will not be driving cross-country for his funeral service.
Adoption faces one with odd dilemmas. I try not, as a rule, to be unkind. Moreover, I know there's a chance that my absence will be remarked, that I will be the missing cousin, that this failure of loyalty will be remembered and may harm relationships I have no wish to harm.
I don't have a good reason for staying home. Not one that I can articulate yet, anyway. Just a mute, stubborn refusal.
I'm trying to work through this.
So tonight, after readings by Prairie Schooner Book Prize winners Kara Candito (Taste of Cherry--which Tracy K. Smith calls "poised and raw, hard-knuckled and siren-sweet") and Anne Finger (Call Me Ahab--PW: "brisk, inventive, and intelligent"), I was walking with a good friend toward the parking lot, and we were joined by . . .
an icon. Seriously: a poet and editor I've admired since I was a callow grad student. (If I included her name, you would say, "Oh, her," in a tone of warm, hushed admiration.) So naturally, my brain stopped making words, and I walked in silence like a dullard, until this iconic poet and editor, who also happens to be a gracious and kindly person, asked how my new place is. Can't think. Can't think. No words coming. How does she know I have a new place? Don't ask. Act casual. Still no words . . .
In desperation, readers, I pulled a Mr. Collins*: my brain, grasping for something to say, pulled a phrase right off this blog and re-used it. (Because sitting here alone, imagining the friendly faces of those of you I know, I'm completely comfortable, so sentences just tumble out easily, as if we're having an intimate chat. --And if they don't, I can log out.)
"Oh," I said lightly, giving the phrase as unstudied an air as possible, "it has all the ambience of a parking garage," as if such phrases sprouted effortlessly on my lips all the time. Readers, I quoted myself.
Not that big a deal, you say? We all recycle verbal formulations? If we didn't employ useful favorites and well-worn catchphrases to help us get through the day, we'd all fall down exhausted by the sheer effort of experiencing things freshly and phrasing them in original ways?
Yes. Quite right you are, and practical, too. And very grown-up about things. Generally, I agree. I try to tamp down that part of myself that always feels queasy repeating used things as though they're fresh. One performs. One must. It goes with the territory.
But this warm and lovely writer and editor, whom I've admired for, lo, these 20 years now, says (in the friendliest of ways), "Yes, I read that on your blog."
Readers, talk about mixed emotions. Talk about feeling 1) shocked, 2) wildly flattered, and 3) like a perfect idiot, in precisely equal proportions.
Sigh. Am I actually becoming more hilarious as I get older, or am I just learning to laugh at myself more? (At least my clothes stayed on.)
In other news, the husband is currently in New Orleans, supposedly checking on his elderly parents (during Mardi Gras--terribly coincidental, I know) but also gambling with the longevity of our marriage by texting me such tidbits as, "64 degrees here. Love you," and, "Eating oyster po-boy in the Quarter. xoxo." I'm saving them as evidence. They may be grounds.
While he's gone, I thought I'd hang curtains (in said apartment with said ambience), just as a practical matter. It's one thing to wander around, visible to all of downtown, when there's a brawny fellow walking around with you, but as soon as his plane left earth, I suddenly thought of every creepy stalker film I've ever seen, and felt very, very backlit.
So there I was, duct-taping our old Indiana curtains up this past weekend. (Our other apartment had blinds.) I also painted some of the sad cabinetry in the kitchen--you know, the kitchen where the 70s went to die? I'm painting the cabinets "Dragonfly," which is a sort of dirty turquoise, bit by bit, late at night. Our above-and-beyond realtor gave us a gift card to Home Depot when we sealed the deal, so we bought a bunch of those little sample bottles of paint colors. I'm using those paints and a 50-cent sponge brush.
Between the fresh coats of dirty turquoise and the duct-taped curtains, the apartment was looking downright homey.
Alas, when I got home this evening from my excitingly overanalyzed interchange, the cat had single-pawedly managed to pull down all the curtains. He lay there rolling guiltlessly on the rug while I re-duct-taped them back up in the dark (so that no stalkers could see me duct-taping and thus intuit that I was alone--you see the extent of things).
So I'm 42, and I'm duct-taping curtains and painting my crappy cabinetry with paint samples. Just typing that sentence makes me laugh out loud here. Is it any wonder I don't feel like I've arrived?
The cement floor under my feet has duct tape marking off where my office will be. Someday. Someday.
Oh, readers, a wild patience has taken me this far. And a sense of humor that's apparently getting jollier by the day.
Happy post-Valentine's Day. Love the ones you're with--and love them hard. It goes by so fucking fast.
*[Mr. Collins, at dinner with the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice:]
". . . Her ladyship seemed pleased with the idea, and you may imagine that I am happy on every occasion to offer those little delicate compliments which are always acceptable to ladies. I have more than once observed to Lady Catherine that her charming daughter seemed born to be a duchess, and that the most elevated rank, instead of giving her consequence, would be adorned by her. -- These are the kind of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention which I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay.''
"You judge very properly,'' said Mr. Bennet, "and it is happy for you that you possess the talent of flattering with delicacy. May I ask whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study?''
"They arise chiefly from what is passing at the time, and though I sometimes amuse myself with suggesting and arranging such little elegant compliments as may be adapted to ordinary occasions, I always wish to give them as unstudied an air as possible.''
Mr. Bennet's expectations were fully answered. His cousin was as absurd as he had hoped, and he listened to him with the keenest enjoyment, maintaining at the same time the most resolute composure of countenance, and, except in an occasional glance at Elizabeth, requiring no partner in his pleasure.
That was Wednesday. We were doing Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Alas, a mere safety pin of one's own would have done nicely. Woolf might have expected, 80 years on, that women would have managed to not only have careers but also dress themselves. Sigh.
Once I discovered the malfunction, I managed to finish class by pinning my elbows to my ribs, holding the slippery thing in place and faking (unconvincingly) aplomb.
I'm laughing even now, typing this.
Women readers who are also writers of personal narrative or poetry, here's a publishing opportunity for you, a collection edited by my lovely graduate intern, Jill McCabe Johnson, who's a poet herself. Jill also directs Artsmith, a nonprofit with residencies, workshops, and more up on Orcas Island.
Work has been crazy, people. I've been serving on two search committees (very exciting), while simultaneously reading a kajillion grad apps (impressive yet demoralizing--so much talent that won't get in), while preparing, in my spare time, that dreaded annual summation of one's worth: the Merit Review File.
Ah, the ritual of the Merit Review File. Listing every last professional thing one's done over the year is a recipe for madness, and trying to squish it all into a coherent narrative? Well, human, please. And just rereading those stacks of student evals is a test of courage. (You want me to provide what? I mean, I like my students, and I care about pedagogy, but the student-as-entitled-consumer model sometimes gets a little out of hand. Oh, for those halcyon days of pipes, sherry, elbow patches, and unquestioned professorial authority to slap an unexplained grade onto work--oh, wait. Maybe not so blissful.)
Knowing that your senior colleagues will be judging it all--and that their judgment will translate into dollars, or the lack thereof, in your paycheck each month--makes the whole process a little nervewracking. This year, we have to go through the motions (and get ranked) even though there's likely to be a salary freeze, which makes the whole thing seem like a exercise in wasted effort.
If you're an academic yourself, you've probably already heard this sad story of a woman, a gun, and a tenure denial in Alabama. As a kind of snapshot of public opinion, the many comments after the story interested me; they reveal the general public's skepticism toward tenure as an institution, academics' frustration with the difficulties that sometimes plague the tenure process, conservative glee that a highly educated "elite" snapped, and liberal dismay about gun control laws--as well as surprise that a woman has now joined the job-related mass-shooting club. I feel so sorry for the professors who were cut down, and for the families who mourn them. (Thanks to Barb for the heads-up on the story.)
Just briefly, I want to express gratitude that my own tenure process at Wabash was so clean. It's true that I did work at an all-male school, and it did lean right, while I lean left. I experienced my share of nasty sexist exchanges during my ten years there. Yet when it came to tenure and promotion, I was treated with tremendous fairness at every level of review, from my department all the way up to the president of the college.
Since then, as a participant in tenure decisions, I've always seen them handled with immense care, generosity, and scrupulous professionalism. My experience has not included the kind of factionalism or personal vendettas that some of the New York Times readers' comments imply. If someone does make an unprofessional comment during discussion of a file, that view gets corrected and sidelined.
With only 35% of teaching carried out by tenured professors now, you can see why the decision process would be so fraught, and why a professor like Amy Bishop would feel outraged. It's part of larger systemic problems in academia that have, for financial reasons and driven by administrators importing a business model into the academy, shifted the bulk of teaching to underpaid, undervalued adjuncts and TAs. (I liked the comment that said no administrator should make a higher salary than the lowest-paid instructor.) It's wrong. It raises the stakes. It makes people crazy.
But it's not worth killing or dying for. It's just a job, people. We need to disinvest our sense of identity from our careers. We have passions, the natural world, families, lovers, children, pets, our neighbors, the guitar, painting, singing--whatever moves us. We're rich beyond measure.
Professional rejection hurts, and it's humiliating. Yes. Been there. But the thing to do is to go home, cry, lick our wounds, get hugged by our loved ones, and get back up on the pony--or pick a different pony altogether.
Kindness--not just to our peers but to ourselves--is always an option.
Insinuated between writer and reader--it sounds far more sly and kinky than I generally feel when I'm typing up these little bulletins.[Woolf] hated any form of publicity . . . because it transformed the strenuous art of reading into the easily digestible pap of "interviews with the author," reviews of, lectures on--everything but the thing itself. She felt that serious reading was gradually becoming extinct, to be replaced by forms of communication designed by a new class of cultural middlemen who had insinuated themselves between writer and reader.
Nonetheless, if I report that Camille Dungy's lecture here at UNL about editing Black Nature was excellent, you are hereby advised to ignore me and go immerse yourself in the strenuous art of reading it for yourself.
Currently teaching college workshops in creative writing, she wrote: "I have managed to always keep a copy of that issue close-by so as to teach it, but somewhere in one of my moves, I misplaced my copy." She wondered if I had a spare I could send.
Who knew? You see, you might think your work falls into a pool and just lies at the dark bottom of the pond like littering leaves, rotting away, but somebody somewhere might have been teaching it for 15 years! You just gotta keep the faith.
Well, I made Sophia a pdf file of "In Theory" for her classes, and it's also now here on this website, available to all and sundry.
Thank you, Sophia, and hurray for the long tail!