Resistance is Poetry’s Legacy: Great Review of “Women Write Resistance”

Over at Blood Lotus: An Online Literary Journal, Stacia Fleegal has written a thorough and thoughtful review of the anthology Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence. Two sections of my long piece “Wanting a Gun” appear in the anthology, and are mentioned in the review. Read the entire review here: “How women poets can change the world”

Here’s her excellent, challenging introduction. Go read the rest!

I realized writing this piece is in itself a form of resistance. To speak at length and in unabashed praise of a collection of poetry written in mouthy backlash to the cultural norms of domestic violence, rape, childhood abuse, verbal harassment and assault on city streets, etc., is to stand with women as they refuse to stand for it anymore. It is to give thoughtful treatment to a problem that is largely being ignored by our lawmakers and our justice system, which is an attempt to extend the work these poets and this editor undertook in participating in the anthology. It is to defy anyone to suggest that these poems aren’t literary because they often sound colloquial, or to dismiss them as therapeutic or confessional or any of those other supposed “critical” terms that condescend to the kind of writing I and others call real talk. We can do that in poetry. Not only is it allowed, but resistance is poetry’s legacy.


November, 2013 – I become a Writer-in-Residence!

This November I’m becoming a Writer-in-Residence at Big Blue Marble Bookstore, the center of Northwest Philly literary life! I’ll be offering craft talks, workshops, and writing classes for 6th-12th grade students.

My first offering is “The Art of Craft,” a series of craft talks and workshops for poets, poetry fans, and writing teachers. The first four topics we’ll take on are: How a Poem Means, Spines and Joints, Measuring Meter, and Walking the Line. For more information, go to: The Art of Craft Series

Please share this with writers and teachers you know. Great poetry has been obscured by bad poetry teaching for far too long! Long live the new Poets-Teaching-Poetry Resistance!

No, I do not wish you success

from Ursula Le Guin’s 1983 commencement address at Mills College:

Success is somebody else’s failure. Success is the American Dream we can keep dreaming because most people in most places, including thirty million of ourselves, live wide awake in the terrible reality of poverty. No, I do not wish you success. I don’t even want to talk about it. I want to talk about failure.

Because you are human beings you are going to meet failure. You are going to meet disappointment, injustice, betrayal, and irreparable loss. You will find you’re weak where you thought yourself strong. You’ll work for possessions and then find they possess you. You will find yourself — as I know you already have — in dark places, alone, and afraid.

What I hope for you, for all my sisters and daughters, brothers and sons, is that you will be able to live there, in the dark place. To live in the place that our rationalizing culture of success denies, calling it a place of exile, uninhabitable, foreign.

Grammar in the Real World – Updated

3rd Person Insultive, 1st Person Aggressive, and more

So, I got an email this week that was just incredibly hostile, a pointed personal attack written in a strange and strained, passive voice, 3rd person construction. In describing it to someone else, I jokingly referred to its construction as the “3rd person insultive” case.

And I liked that—both because the humor relieved some of the awful sick feeling of it, and because it seemed true. So now I’m wondering what other constructions of grammar we’ve experienced. I’ll start making a list of mine, with suggested definitions. Please add to it as you discover your own!

-3rd person insultive—a personal attack written in the passive, third person “some people have been”

-1st person past invective interrogatory—a verb form of regret and/or anger, used when reviewing something that happened which, in light of what has happened since, has become enraging, hurtful, or distasteful, as in “damn it, why didn’t see that coming?” or “fuck, I should have known when she….” or the infamous “Jesus H. Christ, I can’t believe I let myself do that for her.”

-1st person aggressive—denotes the out of control use of “I feel” statements, or when these statements are used to dominate a person or group or control the outcome of a decision

-future empirical—used most often by remote, “scientific” voices calmly explaining that Y must and will happen because of X and because That Is The Way Of The World

-2nd person past imperative— the verb form embodied by “You should have!”

-1st person past regretative
—as in “I should have!”

2nd person passive-aggressive infinitive—as in “If you are going to disagree with me then there is nothing to be done/said.”

from Karen Escovitz:

-2nd person hostile projective—in which the person slings insults or accusations which are more true of themselves than the identified target

-passive accusatory—used most often by batterers, bad parents, and State Departments, as in “why do you go on making me hurt you?

-past perfect mind fuckative—where the person distorts things in such a persuasive way that it leaves you disoriented and questioning your understanding of reality (usually 1st or 2nd person?)

-2nd person victim blamative accusatory—as in “you let people take advantage of you” or “if you hadn’t been there in the first place, maybe that wouldn’t have happened”

from Sheila Allen Avelin:

-2nd-person accusatory interrogative— “How could you?”

from Adina Abramowitz:

-2nd person I know you better than you do—As in “You always . . .” used to escalate arguments, as in “you always make a mess” or “You always leave the toothpaste cap off.

from Alicia Ostriker:

-2nd person aggressive interrogative—as in “Why are you frowning?”, “Did you finish the cleanup?”, “Are you sorry?”, “Where were you?”

from Jenn Sheffield:

3rd person exculpatory—a point argued using someone else’s purported opinion to protect oneself, as in “Well, some people would say that being gay is a cop-out.” (Yes, a former teacher said this to me when I first came out to her. And I wasn’t quite with-it enough to rejoin, “But do YOU think so?” So it was a completely hypothetical argument.)

from Naomi Klayman

First Person Whinative—as in “How come I never get to … ?”(often used by small children and adults acting like small children)

Pluperfect Shithead—as in someone who accuses: “if you had only taken a minute to think about it you would have (done it my way)!” Purpose is to humiliate instead of empower.

3rd person future reclaimative—when someone says something intended to hurt you but ends up giving you the opportunity to be creative – much to their dismay.

2nd person silent pejorative eyeroll—as in, well, you know exactly what this means

from Layney Wells

1st person dismissive—as in “I’m sorry you feel that way…..But” Also known as 1st person false sympathy underminitive

and, growing from this, Elliott adds:

1st person self-justifying conjuctive— the use of the word “but” to reveal the hidden agenda, which is always to offer a clause of false sympathy or agreement and then to reveal the true intention of the speech, to say why you are wrong and the speaker is correct, such as “I’m sorry you were hurt BUT I told you so” or “Wow, that sucks BUT I think you kind of deserved it because…..” (note-while violence is never a justifiable solution, this use of the word “but” does make me want to do anything to the speaker that will make them stop talking)

from Jennie Ruby

passive sarcastic imperative—as in, “Yeah, that’ll get done.”

snortative absolute— as in, “Harumph.”

from Carol Burbank

3rd person holistic— when pseudo-loving abstractions are used to whole-istically define the world according to “one’s” personal needs and beliefs

1st person interlickutory— when language of command via questions and rising and falling tones is sensually applied, either by phone or in person, to express and lubricate a partner

2nd person moderational— in which a well intentioned but foolish friend tries to interrupt a fight between two equally well intentioned but foolish friends, as in “That’s not what I heard her say…” or “Are you sure that’s what she meant?”

-which always leads to 1st person explosive—“What makes you think you understand ANYTHING!?”

-which invokes multiple potential responses, ranging from 1st person past invocative accusatory to 1st person whinative (usually on both sides) and inevitably 1st person dismissive, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and 1st person escapative (“I gotta go!”)

“The Lake Rises” – with one of my poems


A wonderful new anthology from Stockport Flats is out now. The Lake Rises: poems to and for our bodies of water explores the complex relationship between humans and water. From the book’s back cover:

Contemporary poets write on, in and through water to examine humans’ responsibility to this endangered resource. These poets calm, quench, transport, cleanse as they protest derogation and mourn drowning. Editors Lisa Wujnovich and Brandi Katherine Herrera achieve a fluid weave of innovative and contemplative poets to usher in climate change. The poems in The Lake Rises: poems to & for our bodies of water reach coast-to-coast, asking readers to drink a diversity of voices that resonate with each other in astounding ways. Some splash. Some sink. Simple narratives and experimental structures become meditative sieves readers can flow through to renew awareness.

My poem “Southern Illinois: Summer 1970” appears in the anthology, along with work from some of my favorite poets: Darla Himeles, Monica Hand, Lynne McEniry, Alicia Ostriker, Jim Spears, Anique Taylor, Lori Wilson, and Lisa Wujnovich. There’s beautiful art, too, on the covers and as part of the poems.

You can order copies through the link above, or drop me a note!


Join my life as a liturgist on Sat October 12th at 10 am in Germantown

Please join Fringes Havurah for a special October service on Saturday, Oct 12 at 10 am in Germantown

Our special October service focuses on creating a space where we can bear to focus on environmental destruction, specifically but not only the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Sitting still in this knowledge can be so hard, when we daily face the crush of our own lives, and trying to save schools and healthcare and other systems melting down in our our communities, and the wall of heavy fear that waits to crash down on us when we face the worst of what happens on our swiftly tilting planet.

So, in our time together that shabbat morning, we’ll build a container in which we can, all together, turn to face this fear and this reality.

Please help us plan by RSVPing to: RSVP Oct. 2013

Service location:
Germantown Friends Meetinghouse
47 W. Coulter St,
Philadelphia, PA 19144

Map: 47 W Coulter

Aaaaaannnnd…. Back from the High Holidays!

Wow, that was quite ride – deciding in August to help make High Holidays happen in early September, WITH a previous promise to spend a week in Minnesota helping my beloveds get married.

Somehow it all came off, and was marvelous. I learned so much from the whole process, and have gotten more and more clear that I need to be working as a liturgist. Not sure how to make a living from that yet, but I am making a life from it, which is a start.

I gave my first-ever Big Talk During the High Holidays, on Yom Kippur during Kol Nidre. I spoke about what the promise of kol nidre – to be released from vows – has meant to me as an incest survivor. I’ve known and loved this community for a long time, and standing in that ritual space, speaking deep truths, felt so incredibly right. Maybe it’s time for rabbinical school after all?

Anyway, here’s the text of my talk. And I’ll be back to blogging soon!

Elliott batTzedek Kol Nidre talk: To be forced to vow against oneself