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22 July 2016 @ 02:28 am
somehow it all connects  
true sacred fire: the contact made in congress, the place where lips meet. the fire of permission, of intimate unspoken pleading. the surface lit bright before charring to ridges and swirls. the sacred fire: the moment of contact. we've come to this moment willingly. in a desperation of senses. no knowledge of what needs to be done or how we will go about doing it. we come to this moment naked, if not from the start shortly into proceedings, as the undressing is one matter that can be disposed of without a second thought or thoroughly luxuriated, one moment after the next, teased over and under expectations like a dish of fresh rose petals held under the nose of a blindfolded playmate. the sacred fire of play, of teasing. of making childish games ritual in the honeyed sway of desire.

and like that we are equals and like that you are in my power, and like that again i am in yours: beautiful goddess, jewel of the heavens, mother of agony and ecstasy, mother of pleasure and shame. ecstatic mother of beautiful agony, listen: listen: torn to nudity in a minute or gently undressed over the course of an hour, it matters little: for each pleasure balance itself perfectly on the scales of true sacred fire. we light up this moment, we light up the sky, we light up each other, over and through: light alight in lightening, a rage of storm-clouded snakes, light alight in the beloved's strange gaze.

how you are in so many ways an abstraction, a pile of self, until the beloved's gaze snaps you into a context where you can see, all at once, who it is that you've become.

who you are in so many ways as an abstraction

in the beast's castle, beauty cannot see herself taking form. in the beast's castle, beauty has not so much forgotten who she was as much as she rebels against new information. for the beast tells her one thing and her prior experience another. for her experience tells her one thing and her pain another, yet. beauty only believes the pain, at first: that's the thing about pain, you can believe in it. you can always at least believe in your pain. anyway, anything worth having is going to be painful: believe it.

beauty in the beast’s castle, alone but for the beast: but beauty is never alone in the castle, for she has her beast. beastly beauty, beautiful beast. it's all leading up to, what is it leading up to, where is this going, what do i need to figure out? surely, i am under some spell. an ancient enchantment. punishment for some sin committed not by me, but my lineage. i am responsible for some long-ago stranger whose wrong i must now right: or the consequences will be grave. my death alone will not be enough. entire townships, innocent villagers, think of the children! my family my family my family, so often the story's hero must resolve a family member's mistake for their own best interests, you know the way of it, or you do if you've been there and most of us have at least once.

and, here on this side of the story, our most important if ill informed quests to put things right have been triggered by a mistake less poetic than plucking a rose off the wrong garden gate or wishing for a daughter at any expense in front of the wrong witch. some of us are trying to short circuit centuries of systemic oppression; some of us are being crushed under the weight of just trying to get people to simply observe systemic oppression: and then there’s the casual "those people," the heartless “not us.” most of our ancestral error is ugly, slippery, uncomfortable: and emphatically unacknowledged. it is costly to speak truth to power. it is very costly. but the truth is: we have turned profit from evil. all of us have. we have luxuriated carelessly in the suffering of others. most of us have. we didn't necessarily know at the time though that's the thing of it: you never know when the shadow realm is about to swarm up in your face with a karmic privilege check, however this year's trend seems to be "must be tuesday."

and we are left, wandering the woods, lost in the castle, circling down the labyrinth. we are left sleepless on the karlstad, staring out over broadcast towers in the dark. we are left strange and miserable: we don't know who to be, we can't understand who we've been, we can't begin to see where any of this is going and as it was, as it should be. our nightly broadcast tower pulse melancholy doesn't necessarily have a lesson all it's own, but it prompts us along the path.

why can't i go back to school, i lament, i ought to have a masters, a masters in creative writing at least. stronger credentials seem like they would be helpful in standing down a few mfa-possessing critics who think they have something over this writer who's bled herself out like clockwork in the course of her independently studied initiations: and they're absolutely right. an mfa is a tremendous accomplishment. won’t help you out as much on the job market as it might have five or ten years ago, but that’s the thing. nobody in power wants to admit it, but that boat broke in half on the way down. it’s not coming back up as a functional vessel. i don’t know that we’re going to have a true renaissance of employment opportunity in the united states until after venid a ver la sangre por las calles. which has been and continues to be something of a problem for those of us who are functionally lovers, not fighters, and chronically ill besides, but.

back to what i was saying: a creative writing mfa is a tremendous accomplishment. unfortunately, it is diminished somewhat when one writer who needed or believed they needed that initiation and were able to rally the resources wields the finished product over another writer who either didn't or couldn't. creative writing is one field sporting that unsporting reality: school only helps to a point. then, you are on your own. on your own to keep challenging yourself. on your own to find meaning in what you achieve. on your own to simply keep engaging with the writing craft. you gotta figure out your own initiations, once school is out, and that’s arguably why i’ve met so many academically successful writers with very little in the way of post-graduate work. sometimes too much school is a method of silencing resistance. self-injury, even.

initiations are a personal matter, best performed in the service of your specific path. there are universal initiations, matters we negotiate by virtue of being human: death, individuation, love. there are others that we choose, and still others that choose us. as called as you may have felt to school, there are other writers who feel equivalently called to something else entirely, and here’s rule one: neither of you has any authority to pronounce the other’s method invalid. schooling can help a writer in many ways, especially those writers still inside their first decade dedicated to learning the craft. the problem is that advanced education has also annihilated more than its fair share of extremely important writers, and not just with student debt. not all of us can survive that much more institutional bureaucracy. not all of us can endure two more years of unholy workshop echo chambers. i examine my own experience against my longing for institutional recognition and see: i’m doing the work of learning to write (i pray to continue doing so as long as i live) and i’m doing it my own way. the reason i’d go back to school would be for the credentials. i hesitate not simply because i don’t have anything even vaguely resembling the monetary resources. the experience itself could have an extremely negative impact on my work.

how much my initiation meant to me, that's how little it means to anyone else, because: we make our own path. we tend our own path. we create and maintain the people we are so we can travel our own path. we determine with our living what our lives will be. an mfa is a tremendous achievement, but it is lessened when a writer uses it either to stop showing up for our craft or for the craft of others. in both cases, it means we’ve stopped showing up for the craft on the whole. in both methods, it’s only a matter of time before the shadow realm swarms up with a karmic privilege check.

then again, maybe it’s just tuesday.

ETA: yeah, i submitted a fifteen page poetry sample in the hopes of maybe getting some MAAF grant action. yeah, i did it on deadline day, at nearly four o'clock in the morning, after deciding NINETEEN TIMES that i wasn't going to be able to pull anything reasonable together in time.

not entirely sure what i submitted. uh oh. but send a good thought. i could really use this.

music: stephen philips - outside a 21 august 2005
[redacted]elsewhereangel on July 22nd, 2016 01:33 pm (UTC)
that's the thing about pain, you can believe in it. you can always at least believe in your pain.
Too true.

sometimes too much school is a method of silencing resistance. self-injury, even. oh HELL yes. Unless you can find someone else to pay for your MFA (the school itself, scholarship/stipend/grant/fellowship) the debt is not going to balance out the career impact. That said, a poet friend of mine was very happy with her MFA that she chose in part because of it's limited residency -- do you want me to look into it? (I am embittered by my own graduate experience and don't want to wilt the dreams of others from my own rancor)

All the good thoughts, always.
selva oscura: [hokusai] great waveanonymousblack on July 22nd, 2016 07:22 pm (UTC)
yeah, see, there was this whole big thing with my undergraduate degree. institutional bureaucracy almost destroyed my soul as an undergraduate. i emerged five years after i crossed the stage at graduation with my BA - actually, i got my post-dated degree, uh, eight years after i crossed the stage at graduation. and it was an ACCOMPLISHMENT. sorta. i am the first in my immediate lineage to go that far in college, so it still counts as a win, but i have some concerns about my basic eligibility for most programs... that's not even thinking about scholarship/stipend/grant/fellowship options.

when we reunited in 2002 (in the thick of the iowa games), paul and me commiserated on our assorted academic failures over thai takeout. i surprised myself by giving the first relatively ignorant and short-sighted grad school rant that was, in 2002, me reluctantly understanding that it probably wasn't going to be something i could do. so i talked and talked and then i stopped and looked down at my pad thai and discovered i was a little weepy. paul very quietly said, "you could honestly just tell most people you have a master's, judy. or don't even mention it and it will be assumed, because it's not like anyone who reads your work would even think to disbelieve you."

kinda saved my life. damn i miss paul.

bookmark your poet friend's experience. not now, but maybe later. thank you. ♥
selva oscuraanonymousblack on July 23rd, 2016 09:23 pm (UTC)
i just realized that you were both refreshingly honest and candid in what you said about your MFA experience and i wanted to specifically thank you for that.

TL/DR explanation: about ten years ago i posted wondering if i should push to get into the iowa graduate fiction workshop because one of my favorite and potentially soon-to-retire authors was heading it and paul was planning on going in the fall for the dance program. the aftermath of that post was an exercise in emotional collapse. everyone who didn't shake their finger at me for even thinking i could try to be a writer without an mfa attacked me with 'GRAD SCHOOL IS FOR CHUMPS' (in 2K words or more). it was like, guardians at the gate on parade, and back then i felt i had to engage even what was very obviously an insecurity monolog. i think after six days of academiasplaining and drama i either privacy-locked or deleted, and it was friends-only to start out with. i lost three friends. yeesh. so yeah. thank you, the way you talked about school there was awesome.

Edited at 2016-07-23 09:25 pm (UTC)
[redacted]elsewhereangel on July 25th, 2016 01:43 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean to be misleading, I've got an MA & a PhD but no MFA. Because of that, I moved in a lot of circles of the multiply degreed, some with MFAs. My views are (probably irrevocably) jaundiced because of my experience and because of a lot of what I see going on in higher ed.

I think you will always be a writer (and a good one) with or without an MFA. And I also think you'd be successful in an MFA program, but I hope very much that you would wind up in a good one, with a real mentors and a real sense of community and I know that that isn't always (maybe even often) the case.

Also, re: CHUMPS I find the people who haven't gone to grad school who aggressively dismiss it out of hand super-grating.
(Anonymous) on July 24th, 2016 03:25 am (UTC)
This is not much more than a good thought
Your parts 1 and 2 take a backseat to no one. I thought them beautiful full of sensual imagery and I won't way a word about the structure.
If you hadn't told me I would think you a fully accredited gown and tassel wearing chair endowed linguist. In the program I dabbled at it was all about where you parked.
The problem is it is quite difficult to try to dismiss the value of advanced degrees when you are part of the academic system and though you may not be "in" the program, you are. I wish you luck in sorting it all out, you've got the tools
selva oscura: [hokusai] great waveanonymousblack on August 4th, 2016 06:34 pm (UTC)
apparently i never replied to this comment! my only excuse: july ate my brain a little. thank you so much for this.

i've never played well with academia. too much energy spent plugging in to the system. not enough time to write. but i've been finding a few other people out there in a similar conundrum. i've got a friend who is having her blog posts taught in graduate writing programs, but she's struggling to get any of it officially published. she has a masters, even, so i know it ain't sunshine and rainbows all the time over there across the degreed divide. :-P