I just got back from the library/community meeting to choose the possible books for the “One Book, One Community” program that will happen in May. Our town has about 90,000 people and about half of them speak Spanish (counting the unincorporated part of town that has the most Spanish speakers, an extra 15,000.)
The library committee had chosen a list of possible books, but then the city council said, “Hey, why didn’t you ask the community.” So, they threw out that list, and opened an invitation. I came because I’m in the local mothers’ club, and another mom asked a few people she knew loved books to participate. Two of us went. Other groups represented: high school teachers, elementary school librarians, senior citizens, librarians, one Latina librarian, men, and high school students.
At our first meeting, we brainstormed a list of qualitites we felt were important for The Book to have. This worked very well. The list of qualities was rewritten into loosely grouped categories. Then we voted, three votes each, on the most important qualities. Our top three picks were: available in Spanish and English; of high interest to the community; and ability to cross generational lines, i.e. be accessible as far downward in age as possible. “Good story” and “interestingness” I think got folded into “of high interest” which originally meant “topical, relevant to our town”. “Literariness” was actually a negative quality even though many people in the room personally liked it.
Not voted on, but often mentioned, was that the book had to be something that would not be offputting to men. We all seemed to know what this meant. It was a dealbreaker quality. No one liked this idea, but there was a sort of pragmatic consensus.
That was three weeks ago. We all talked to people in our communities and came up with no more than 5 books each that we felt would have the right qualities, and that we felt passionate about. I put the question out there, “So are we committing to the idea of availability in Spanish?” And there was reluctance… though it had the most votes. Tonight there was a moment again where some books only in English might have slipped through, but I put my back up, and then the librarian agreed, and everyone else went with it. I was glad. My main goal of being there was fulfilled…
We had an interesting discussion of books that were good, but that were overused, were sort of too canonical. The Giver, or The Red Pony, or House on Mango Street. The high school student sort of closed her eyes and groaned at all these, which have become standard middle-school reading list fare. I was thinking of House on Mango Street as standard community-college fare, but that was 20 years ago. Now it’s for middle school!
There were only a few of us for this second meeting: The high school girl (new), the senior citizen (she was in favor of more ‘literary’ options), the other mom-club woman’s husband who is a community college lit prof and who was the only non-anglo, me, the librarian who was unbearably cool, and some other old guy who seemed quite well read and interesting, parent of a high school student. I was impressed with everyone. They had all made sincere efforts to ask around and get opinions!
We had some discussion, ruled out a few books, spoke up in favor of some others, passed books around the table, and came up with:
– The Kite Runner
– Before We Were Free
– Grapes of Wrath
– Their Eyes Were Watching God
That’s a pretty cool list. I could lose “Seabiscuit” and not care, but the rest of it’s fine! I don’t think anyone will vote for Grapes of Wrath, which IMHO is too long at 600-ish pages, and also too high of a reading level. “Before We Were Free” was my suggestion. I loved the idea of everyone reading “The Moon is Down”, but could not find it in print in Spanish. The other book we wanted that wasn’t in print in Spanish: Night, by Elie Wiesel.
I would have been unnerved to suggest The Kite Runner, but the high school girl’s freshman class had read it and all really liked it and had super intense discussions. “It’s got war, it’s got racism, it’s got father-son relationships, and going back to your old country, and class issues, it’s got EVERYTHING,” – radiating valley-girly intensity enthusiasm.
“And it’s, well, it’s sort of about, it’s got this… rape. Of a guy.” Okay, after that endorsement from a 14 year old, we were all voting for it! Plus the author lives here. I’ll probably vote for it over my original choice.
Well, I wanted to write that all up because it was a great example of actual community involvement in politics and in canon formation.
Announcing the first Carnival of Blog Translation! Tuesday, Feb. 28th, 2006!
On the day of the Carnival, a participant translates one post by another blogger, and posts it on her own blog with a link to the original. She would need to email me, or post in the comments right here, and I’ll compile one big post on the day of the Carnival with links to all the participants.
You can translate any blog entry that was posted in the month of February 2006. It can be your own blog entry, if you like.
From participants I need:
name of your blog
your blog URL
post title in target language
name of blog you’re translating
name of person you’re translating
the post title in the source language
You should get permission from the person you’re translating to post your translation of their work. I would also suggest that you might introduce your translation for the target-language audience, and provide some context if you can.
A Blog Carnival is sort of like a travelling signpost that points to a bunch of magazine articles. It is a post that contains links to other posts written especially on a particular theme. I’ll host it this month, and next month will hand it off to another host. The content will not appear here; only links to that content!
If you’re looking for a blog in a particular language, try searching on Technorati, a useful blog search engine.
*** Rebecca Mckay points out that the “Translation Carnival” is a graduate student conference happening at University of Iowa in April. Here’s some information on the U. of Iowa Translation Carnival; it sounds like a great event!
I’m behind in my notes on readings that I go to. Here’s some notes from the January meeting of Waverley Writers, a large, friendly open mike that happens in a Quaker church. The MC, Jean Chacona, introduces people in groups of three.
Willy – “remember standing… wearing sheepskin vest, wanting nothing…” Streetcorner poem. “Before there was a before.” A bit of messing with rhyme and meter. I think for a moment of the Tom Lehrer song, “The Folk Song Army.”
Ron Lang – “Middle East Politics”
Ella Rae Locke – as always, her odd use of language stands out. She will always use a 50 cent word where you’d expect sparseness of a nickel one. It’s jarring, I’m not sure it works, it struck me at first as if she took every noun and adjective, looked them up in the thesaurus, and replaced them with the longest most multi-syllabic word; and yet it charms me as part of her attempt at baroque style. “mouth to mouth resuscitation, loaded beyond recognition, and accrue malignant momentum, evolutionary editing as involuntary as wet clothes, consenting mandatory neutralizing meaningless significants awareness nuisances lay their libellousness immunity testimony reality….” That is not a direct quote but as I listened I was jotting down the Big Words. I like the effect, in fact, the more it grates on me.
Muriel – “Short Stories”. “She is afraid of him. He was afraid of her. He likes his own friends more.”
Anita Holz – “Paper making”. Competently descriptive prose paragraphs. I wonder why it’s a poem. In fact, it’s not. Would be fine as a short magazine article or memoir about an experience.
Steven Riddle – “Notes of the bird.” “My lost ghost tracks me… The egret stalks; beauty eats beauty.”
Tom Digby – Quality vs. Quality. Dammit, I can’t read my notes and I’ve forgotten the poem. Does this say “wheelmaker”?
Dude whose name I forgot. This poem was so long and simple in concept that I began to write down bits of it. “I was a bad boy. They didn’t beat the others, only me. The cycle must end. Let it end with me. No abuse from me for my boys. So I left them. I was bad. I was not a bad man. I am a good man. I have done good things. I have done bad things. Fear into strength. Pain into enlightenment. ” Okay, it was heartfelt and sincere. But it made me think of the children’s book, “Pickles the Fire Cat”. “Pickles was not a good cat. Pickles was not a bad cat. He was good and bad. He was a mixed-up cat.” I recognize the value of such therapy poems. This one was very sweet and very clear. Just not my cup of tea.
Christine Holland – “so lightly out, brief candles… Fatima at 16… he murdered her to clean their name.” Christine has been reading more political poems lately. Much more raw and painful than what she was reading a year ago.
Brucey Slama – “Merlot merlot/ low to the ground/ coy as a boy/ joy for all/ tall not small.” and an ice cream poem. “Flavors with nuts/Best, I assert/ Don’t like sorbet or sherbert.” Okay. Let’s move on.
Peter Chow – Guy who wrote that one really good, long, 100-poem, with the line I liked about bones and snow. This poem is one he wrote when he mom (recently) died, and it’s a burial poem, an acrostic on “gratitude”. He read a second poem about her in the morgue. “a quilt with eight swans over us / Plato says the swan sings… /the Sanskrit for swan/ you have a good heart, mama…”
Greg Kimura – Oh, now here’s a poet. Huzzah! “The thousand and first kiss; or, how men love”. So excellent and such a relief, I did not take any notes. I’d like to hear him feature somewhere.
David Cummings – “The last of the leaves”. Hearing David’s poems is one of the main reasons to go to Waverley. always excellent.
John Hutton – “July 4 1998”. “You are celery and I am tomato/ and somehow we embrace/as your mother / cruises by on a Harley…” Excellent! Everyone liked it, too. Hutton’s nerdy quirkiness worked well, here.
Aline S. – “in the hospital, 45 breaths per minute from the respirator/ to keep your organs pink and healthy/ later I counted/ the people at your funeral…. your urn… we can measure that too, you get smaller all the time/day by day by measured day.” Good! Very quintessentially Waverleyish.
Rob Parry announce a meeting of Bay Area Book Arts.
(Announcement deleted at poet’s request)
Someone recommends we take a look at the paintings in Books, Inc. in Mountain View.
Steve Arntson – “Helicopter dust”. Another main reason to come to Waverley. One of the best poets in the Bay Area, but almost no one seems to know it.
Me – two poems, “queen of swords” which is just 2 lines, and “this is the first morning”, a hard poem for me to read. It’s like it’s in the voice of me 15 years ago. “where is the surface of my body? organ sonorous,/ when in the wave-cold blast i shrink from touch/ the present mixes with the past and I tune out…”
Bruce Jewett – “I never get screwed by car salesman/ I never play video poker/ But I bought a war, once.” So good! Another poem on paper-making; “paper a paper-maker just made…. long after I forget my own name…” I dig Bruce’s work and his aesthetic.
(Deleted at poet’s request)
Kit bliss Jones – “girlfriend” “Life is uncertainty, so eat dessert first.” Rhyming poem.
Len Anderson – Flamenco poem. “The deeper his grief/ the … consolation… / he too was… by the turning of the earth…” Damn. I can’t read my notes, but it was a very good poem. I always enjoy Len’s poems, usually explorations of a form, and he also has a keen pen for style. I love his marvellous parody of Howl – the silicon valley version, “Beep”.
“I am always grateful for the repetition of notes; /it tells me the music will go on / after I leave the room.” Aw yeah! Tell it, Len!
Judith Bishop – Ants. “I spray hot water over the crawling dishes… ” Ants on the dishes. Suburban goddess of destruction.
Then a long story. Solstice – Native american ceremony – spirals – recovery from alcoholism. This, also, very quintessentially Waverleyish. But must it be a poem? Why not foray into memoir or “spoken word”? There’s some necessary fermentation missing, a bit frustrating to hear because it’s so close, and Judith is a good writer.
Jayne Kos – Temple… stairs… I’m sorry to Jayne but at this point I spaced out and lost the thread of attention.
Jean Chacona – “Infiltration” – love – entrails – black box – a lock, but also leaks – knowing there is no cure. Another good poem from Jean. Also, I admired her black, grey, and pink argyle sweater…
Mary Petroski – what trick of light/makes today/ different from other days?
Nelly Capra – “Job Interview in Alameda”. Scene. wait and pray. breezes. butterfly. birds. truck. workers. sun. write and wait. Oct. 31. No clouds. Here is a diary entry or blog post…
Esther Kamkar – I’m a huge fan of her work. Esther, main reason #3 to come to Waverley and if you come and she’s not there it’s a disappointment. “Simple Words”. 1. Bones A baker bakes bread/ A shoemaker makes shoes….”
Robert Parry – “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”
Carol Hankemeyer – “Red” “Red is…..” etc.
JC Watson – Excellent as always. Reason #4 to come to Waverley. I always scribble like mad when she reads. “Art is made in Death’s kitchen… the war is made up. The leaves fell again this year. ..” “Where is the tunnel? You may choose / darkness, / It’s a good friend. Doesn’t make promises, doesn’t lick at your heart…”
At some point I began thinking hard about modernismo. The private aesthetic appreciation, and retreat into self and perception. Trying to make the moment glorious. Encapsulating a moment and its depth. How many connections can it handle?
me the moment has to have infinit
e connections and is a nexus of possibility. You can’t wrap it up too neatly.
I’ll be reading tonight at the Nomad Cafe in Oakland…
It’s on Shattuck and 65th St., walking distance from Ashby BART. 7:00-9:00.
Serene will read a few poems, then I’ll read my poems and translations, and then a break and an open mike.
like to try a couple of my translations of Nestor Perlongher. They’re strange poems, and they don’t make a huge amount of linear sense, and they work by talking around the subject in baroque fractal image/wordplay digressions. So that the images will all be of starfish and rays of light and greasy film running through a projector and rayon shirts and feather boas, and every word has three meanings and interconnections to other words, but somewhere in the middle you are hit by a blinding realization that the poem is all about the metaphysics of cocksucking. They were VERY hard to translate and I would dig testing them out in front of people. I’ll read some of the short ones in Spanish, but most in English. I’d also like to read a sampling of my translations from the anthology I’m working on – Latin American women poets from 1880-1930.
If that sounds good, then I hope you show up!
I was challenged to explain what I mean by “genre” and how it’s different from a “literary movement”. So, is modernismo a genre? A movement? Or what? Some theorists talk about genre as form – as poetry, drama, prose; elegy, epic, lyric. Then there’s another way of talking about genre or subgenre, or “historical genres”: science fiction, gothic romance, realist painting. And if a literary movement is some people copying each other to do something a new way, or a particular way, and create a different frame of reference of aesthetic judgement, how is that different from inventing a genre — a body of work that shares some particular characteristics?
Or, think of it this way… a sonnet is a form, not a genre. But we could talk about a historical genre of “courtly love poetry” which often uses sonnet form. Or one could talk about a genre of writing about “courtly love” which would include various form-genres like poetry and exchanges of letters.
So am I way off base in using that word to talk about modernismo as a genre? And suggesting a countergenre? “Movement” doesn’t fit, and I’m trying to talk about the beginnings of decisions about canonicity… though I suppose you can talk about being canonical within a particular movement. But how critics/poets decide who’s in the movement and who isn’t is quite suspect. So if a movement depends on traceable connections between writers, and I’m reframing rather than proving connections, I don’t feel like “movement” is the right word. Plus – it makes me think of going to the bathroom.
“In Two Tongues/En Dos Lenguas: Bilingual Spoken Word.” Emerging poets (or student poets) living in the Mid-Atlantic region sought for a new reading series to begin this Spring in Arlington. Each emerging poet will be paired with a “master” poet. Poems will be presented in both English and Spanish. Submit 4 typed copies of up to 3 poems in English or Spanish.
Deadline: Feb. 24. Mail to:
Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201. For more info
and entry forms, see: http://www.arlingtonartscenter.org.
Reading “Treason Our Text” is so orgasmic… it makes everything clear and beautiful. Well, clear and scary, but that’s better than dark and scary.
Am I really going beyond it? I feel like I can see beyond it, but I’m still IN it. And no one I have read seems to have gone beyond it.
1) criticize existing canon – pick it apart
2) make case for individual women writers that they fit the canonicity
3) make countercanons (but: questions of aesthetics/quality)
4) women’s culture, continuity, connections (evading “quality”)
– break down class/elite/genre high/low (here is where I am pounding the keys on genre formation, which Robinson only lightly touches on: “an entire literature previously dismissed because it was popular with women and affirmed standards and values associated with femininity” )
5) style challenged
“Once again, the arena is the female tradition itself. If we are thinking in terms of canon formation, it is the alternative canon. Until the aesthetic arguments can be fully worked out in the feminist context, it will be impossible to argue….”
The development of feminist literary criticism and scholarship has already proceeded through a number of identifiable stages. Its pace is more reminiscent of the survey course than of the slow processes of canon formation and revision, and it has been more successful in defining and sticking to its own intellectual turf, the female counter-canon, than in gaining general canonical recognition for Edith Wharton, Fanny Fern, or the female diarists of the Westward Expansion. In one sense, the more coherent our sense of the female tradition is, the stronger will be our eventual case. Yet the longer we wait, the more comfortable the women’s literature ghetto — separate, apparently autonomous, and far from equal — may begin to feel.
So my answer to that has been to construct not a countercanon, but a countergenre. Then within that genre (which might be the “women’s culture” strategy) I propose to redefine literary quality. Then to reintegrate canons. (Of course: Someday? When? How?)
But where I go much further, or where I can see further, is in tech, in databases and tagging. Databases and indices, taggable entries, and open source algorithms that people can tweak to construct their individual or institutional canon of the moment. Obviously, large powerful universities would “brand” their own algorithm and perhaps might make them closed-source. I’ve been saying it for a couple of years now. It would be so beautiful. Tagging and tag clouds would make popular input possible. The construction of algorithms with spectrums of weighting desired important qualities would come up with results to construct syllabi, anthologies, and reading lists on the fly. Databases and the web make it possible to build infinite multiple dynamic canons.
I’m blogging on Latin America as a contributing editor for Blogher. Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks is also covering the region – she’s taking anything Caribbean and I’m, in theory, linking up with blogging women from the rest of Latin America. The idea is not to cover news, as Global Voices does, but instead, to look at what women are writing.
My hope is that English-speaking and Spanish-speaking women bloggers will become more aware of each other, and will jump into conversation with each other, unmediated by me, on each other’s blogs. Even if they’re monolingual, they can use automated translators like Google Language Tools or Babelfish to read each others’ posts and comments.
I’m hoping to be a good party host, introducing people to each other and facilitating the start of their conversation. Look, there I am in the photo at the BlogHer Launch Party, raising my glass… It’s a GREAT party.
If even a few people become aware of each other, I’ll be so happy! And at the very least, English speaking bloggers will become more aware they aren’t the only ones talking. I hope that I can serve as a translator, though I’ll be an imperfect one, to help make this happen.
My other very strong hope is that someone will step up and “cover” blogging-women’s Brazil, because I’m already overwhelmed and I don’t know Portuguese! There are so many fantastic Brazilian bloggers, I’d go crazy trying to read everything.
Thanks to BlogHer founders Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort, and Jory Des Jardines for a great site and a fun party!
At the same time I am also Beverly the Blog Chick who dabbles in being international, entrepreneurial and pedagogic and who knows how to get round all the rules just like any other Chica Esperta. It’s the Chica Esperta who does and who makes things happen.
So far I’ve not been very adept either at keeping the rules, nor at getting round them. But organising my identity between Duh-sent and Chica Esperta Blog Chick is proving to be an empowering experience.
I love that, what she says about organizing her identity. It IS empowering. That’s just what I’ve been trying to do. And it’s also what Doris Lessing was writing about in The Golden Notebook, and Joanna Russ in The Female Man. We end up with “different selves” because of our multiple roles as women, and maybe because of the pressures of … well, a certain impossibility of integration, or suspicion that integration of our selves would mean the erasure of part of the self that is loved and valued.
As I continue doing huge amounts of poking-around and researching and blog-reading and note-taking, for the new BlogHer site — I’m writing about Latin American women’s blogs — I keep noticing women popping up in multiple identities, newly linked in the last year or so, just like me and my web presence… Gabby of La lesbiana argentina, hooking herself up with her other self at Pont des Arts; Dr. Kleine with a wild and woolly blog at En nombre del BLOG and then her polished essays at Olganza; Iria Puyosa with Rulemanes and Reste@dos. There’s so many more, but those are the ones I’ve read the most of.
It seems to happen as a fragmentation over time and then a re-linking or coming-out (or outing) process.
I wonder if it will become more normal to have the ability to dig into the personal lives and personal blogs of people who have professional status in nearly any field? You don’t necessarily want to know about your dentist’s sex life, but you might like to know about their opinions and experiences as a dentist. You might want to only know their professional front. But… if we consider the possibility that we are not bigoted, and people have a lot of personal freedom, and we assume as human beings that everyone around us has a rich, strange interior life, why NOT have their personal voice, their intimate thoughts they’d like to reveal on a friendly level, why NOT have them be knowable. That voluntary openness, and deliberate fragmentation and organization, is very powerful. Of course it’s not always comfortable.