rosemary stretch: a woman’s work is never done

Mercury retrograde’s got me itching to get rid of all these papers everywhere. A woman’s work is never done. I’ve been writing for a long time with drafts piling up over more than 30 years now. It’s too much. I mostly write by hand. By that I mean that I still do– I write every day by hand. People who know me well have seen the years of Mead journals that fill files, bookcases and chests. Not to mention all the journals in storage, the boxes full of them in my mother’s garage.

Every few years I have a bonfire. Or a shredding party. I just can’t keep all this stuff around, I need to let it go. Maybe I haven’t done a good enough job at midwifing; at getting the words out into the world: a woman’s work is never done.

There are poems here and there, a couple of books, but nothing compared to all these journals, papers and drafts. It seems a shame to just disappear them, but the point of the writing may have been the process itself. Not whether I got a book contract (I didn’t). Not anything measured in statistics, page visits, likes or any other measurable criteria. There was love in the doing, in the writing itself. (inner critic laughs, just keep telling yourself that, hon.)

impermanence

In my heart I have so much love for ephemera, for noting the moment, bearing witness, archiving, preserving. All part of why I became a librarian. Creating all those chapbooks helped make me a poet. Output could have been zines or stories, recipes, paintings, mixtapes, dance moves, love songs, anything, but I made poetry chapbooks. Most of them hand-sewn, with hand-stamped or painted covers. I loved doing it and sharing it with folks who seemed to share my interests. It’s love. That’s one of the ways love expresses itself through me, the vehicle I am.

Lately I’ve focused in other directions, but I’m grateful to have been able to share. Now that I’ve added one pdf I’m going to try to add more. For me the point was always in the making and the writing. There’s a physical beauty to handmade things that doesn’t translate into digital realms. That magic is mostly lost now, like browsing books or listening to music in record stores.

There is access though and that’s beautiful too. Information spreads far, wide and quickly– instantaneously. Most of my chapbooks had very limited runs. Only however many I could sew or staple– 50 or 100 total (a woman’s work is never done). That made them seem very precious, wonderful gifts, but very few people ever saw them. Putting them online, at least they exist again: new digital life. If anyone ever gets curious, they can maybe find them.

Like Rosemary Stretch.

Whenever I put together a chapbook, it was usually full of poems that already felt old to me, distant. Rosemary Stretch (pdf) was published in 2006 with the first Dusie Press kollektive project organized by Susana Gardner. (It was like a spinoff of the subpoetics self-publish or perish project– is there anything about that online? It was so long ago I can’t even remember what I wrote for that; though I know I participated because I just saw some sheets of old mailing labels to people on that list. Ah, listservs… so Y2K. Looking around the internets I don’t see much mention of it. Maybe that’s a subject for a future post.) I was living in the UK at the time; a new mother, all my energy was going to the baby. My thoughts, when I had them, circled around ideas of women’s work (it’s never done), women’s writing generally, and whether motherhood would change my own writing.

women’s work

The idea of the “Rose Mary Stretch” struck me as hilarious then the same as it does now. I stay amazed that people mostly don’t know wtf I’m talking about when I say that. Even though I put an image on the cover. It’s an abstracted black and white rendering of Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary, demonstrating how it was that she ‘accidentally’ erased 5 of the missing 18.5 minutes of the Watergate tapes. In the image, she’s re-enacting the scene, later known as the “Rose Mary Stretch.” Rose Mary Woods died in 2005 and I must have heard a story about it to set me off thinking about what it means to be a good secretary.

Rose Mary Woods' stretch that 'accidentally' erased 5 minutes of the Watergate Tapes.
Rose Mary Woods’ stretch that ‘accidentally’ erased 5 minutes of the Watergate Tapes.

From the Washington Post, “Reporters were called to the White House to watch her perform a re-enactment, and the photos of her performing a tremendous stretch, which she supposedly held for five minutes, were rejected as implausible. Moreover, the particular tape recording machine does not operate the way she had claimed; simply pressing the foot pedal to “record” would not initiate a recording unless the play button was being manually depressed at the very same time.”

Halfway through 2021, we’re still in a global pandemic. Climate crisis, wars raging around the world, mass graves appearing, severed heads in the garbage. There are bodies still in freezer trucks down the street. Centuries of greed, hatred and delusion are being revealed for what they are; bearing fruit in deeply painful ways for us all. Poems inspired by the idea of a good secretary erasing incriminating evidence for her boss seem almost sweet right now. Simpler times. Even in simpler times, a woman’s work was never done.

being love

Being love: an experiential workshop for QTPOC

“What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.  –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” –Audre Lorde

This is the time of year when “love” gets packaged, hyped and sold in stores. Sentimental, old stories that serve the dominant paradigm are dusted off to fill the shelves, media channels and feeds. Narratives that may not look at all like our experiences, like our lives. Ideas that don’t promote our healing and care, or even our existence.

Self-care has long been co-opted and marketed as a product for consumption. Being love is an opportunity to examine what love is on our own terms, in our own bodies and lived experiences. Through a series of guided meditations, writing exercises and discussion, we will explore love and self-compassion some of the roots of presence, resilience and equanimity.

Why? To honor ourselves, our own experiences and to re-center narratives on our own truths. Audre Lorde and Dr. King spell it out: we examine and honor our own experiences as a means of self-preservation and as a source of political warfare against violent, oppressive systems. To serve the cause of the love that liberates and fosters justice, not the one sold in stores.

Join us at metaDen Sunday February 10th 4-6pm. 52 Tompkins Avenue Brooklyn, NY. $10-20 suggested donation.

♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

more love

Just in time to help balance commercially-driven, hetero-normative Valentine’s day! I’m so happy to see The Open Photo Project highlighted recently by the BBC.

from the BBC:
“The Open Photo Project aims to reduce stigma about consensual non-monogamous relationships. In one recent study from the US 21% of the study’s participants reported having had some kind of non-monogamous relationship – but that number could be higher, owing to people not willing to share their personal circumstances.”

Here’s the BBC’s brief interview with Erika Kapin about the project.
More love for everyone!

love more

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with Erika Kapin, helping out with The Open Photo Project

She says, “This project offers a look at the uniqueness of human relationships and is an invitation to re-examine preconceived notions of successful, sustainable, and healthy romantic love. Together, let us de-stigmatize ethically non-monogamous relationships by building understanding and respect. The aim is for more people to accept that while monogamy is a valid relationship choice, there is a wide spectrum of other equally valid choices that can be as varied as the human experience.”

I’m all about this.

Keep up with The Open Photo Project on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and tumblr.
Videos of interviews are posted on YouTube.

tell people they can fucking win

Cover image from The Poetry Project Newsletter April/May 2017 Issue #251. White pants with one leg covered in printed text that reads Fight Trans Phobia

I saw a video online of Ed Sanders, Jack Kerouac and Lewis Yablonsky discussing the political moment happening in 1968 with William F. Buckley on Firing Line recently. I asked Ed Sanders if he still stands by the visions of love & light that he talked about in that interview. I really hoped he would say that even in the dire circumstances we find ourselves in now he still believes. His gracious response is included in issue #251.

Now available online, issue #251 was my last one as editor for the Project Newsletter.

Contents include a memorial for Ray DiPalma with some of his work. And investigations into our current political moment, TELL PEOPLE THEY CAN FUCKING WIN, curated by Jen Hofer.

Art from Anastasio Wrobel and Hilary Mushkin. And, of course, reviews: Velina Manolova on Christine Shan Shan Hou, Edmund Berrigan on Micah Ballard, Rijard Bergeron on Jared Stanley, Julia Johanne Tolo on Jennifer Firestone, Lara Mimosa Montes on Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

I hear the latest issue #252, put together by new editor Marwa Helal, is just back from the printer and should be dropping soon. I’m so excited to see it.

The Firing Line episode with Ed Sanders is available here.

The Illuminator

Maybe it’s all the retrograde planets now making me remember old times. Or maybe the fact that Mark Read appeared to me in a dream, messing around with machines and wires. Whatever the reason, the Illuminator‘s early days have been on my mind & looking at this site I realized I never posted much about it.

Here’s a video of the first night we drove into Manhattan to Zuccotti Park fully expecting to get arrested. We had a lawyer with us on board, just in case, Lopi steering the ship, Danny & I repping the library, Brandon on documentation & Mark. Apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone else who was with us in the van, seems so long ago already.


N17 blew people’s minds. The light then really made me know that the city is ours, the streets are ours. “You are a part of a global uprising… Another world is possible.” It’s been almost five years, is there still any doubt? I’m so deeply grateful to have been part of this & share the video below for those who weren’t there.

other Illuminator/N17 coverage:
AlterNetBeautiful Trouble | Boing Boing | CNNThe Guardian | The New York Times |

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! (Keats)

Autumn. I spent time yesterday at the Department of Sanitation digging through the rubble of what was left from Liberty Park. It was the second day I’ve spent doing it. The NYPD officers there know me by now and we’re friendly enough to chat to help pass the time. I was asked more than once why more people hadn’t shown up for their stuff. I didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they don’t know about it or maybe it’s too difficult to get here. Others posit that we’re just too lazy to get it together to get uptown or maybe we don’t want to be in the system because we’ve got priors or something to hide.

Betsy Fagin stands among a sea of tents and belonging stolen from Zuccotti Park Occupiers
Betsy Fagin stands among a sea of tents and belonging stolen from Zuccotti Park Occupiers

Yesterday I was really interested in filing claims against the city and Bloomberg that they should pay for what they’ve destroyed (“destruction of private property–that’s an actionable offense.”). But today I’m wondering how could they ever? It’s impossible to repay. We’ve got two different realities at clash. This is the paradigm shift we’ve been talking about for so long. One reality is Bloomberg’s world of finance and hierarchy, where people just follow their orders and there are claims to file. The other isn’t even about that. It’s not all about finance, it’s a gift economy. The second reality is a world of interdependence and connection, of mutual aid and relationships.

accountability

When I move to file a claim against the city, my underlying need is for some retribution, some justice. Accountability. I want my whole community back, but it can’t be bought with monies paid out by the city comptroller. What I mourn is the destruction of the love and goodwill that was embodied in the creation and daily life of Liberty Park.

It’s not just the cost of the tents and the sleeping bags, the clothing and all the gear. It’s not just about how much the electronics cost or the generators or any other thing. Their true value isn’t reflected in their money cost. Justin’s leather portfolio was given to him at graduation by his grandfather. It is irreplaceable. Its value doesn’t derive from the cost of the leather or of the craftsmanship of the thing in itself. The value is in the love the object was steeped in and the feeling it created over time.

Justin's things are destroyed. Smashed tablet, phone and other other electronics.
Justin’s things are destroyed. Smashed tablet, phone and other other electronics.

generosity

So too the People’s Library built entirely of generosity, of love. So too all the tents, all the mittens, all the jackets, all the socks. Every pizza, every energy bar, every bottle of water. Almost every aspect of life at Liberty Park was created through a generosity of community spirit with a foundation in love. This is not quantifiable. It is the destruction of our home, of our community.

What happened at Liberty Park wasn’t just clearing a park of a bunch of campers or people leaving piles of books around, it was an attempt to sever the ties of love, community and support that had taken root and begun to grow.

I believe that what any gardener knows will prove true for our community as well. Bloomberg’s deadheaded us and our community– temporarily destroyed the visible, flowering growth. It’s almost impossible to kill a plant by deadheading, it’s actually one of the best methods for creating new growth. Now our roots can grow deeper and stronger. Thanks again for your help, Mr. Bloomberg! It really is the beginning of the beginning.