A slick site for book-buying

I don’t usually read email spam, but this one for Booksprice was really good. I tried the site and liked the slick, clean interface. It basically does what it says it does: searches across a lot of different book sites & shows you comparisons of the prices. I tried Gotz & Meyer by David Albahari, a book I just bought for 15 bucks at the translation conference. I loved the book and was thinking of buying it for a couple of people I know. The most interesting feature of Booksprice is the ability to compare prices on multiple items. I stuck 5 books in my basket: Gotz & Meyer, Kalila and Dimna, Le Guin’s translations of Gabriela Mistral, “Unmentionables: A Brief History of Underwear”, and Naciste Pintada. I got a choice of two different ways to buy all those books, one significantly cheaper than the other. The idea is that if you can get all the books from the same source, shipping charges will be much cheaper. (Or will they?)

I took out the book in Spanish and tried again. The results ranged from all the books+ shipping for $44.35 (all new) to $136.85 if I bought them all individually from little stores on abebooks.com. (I often use abebooks for books in Spanish, actually – I’m not dissing them.)

The site seems to operate from cookies – it tracked my recent searches, but never asked me to create an account. It has another cool feature – you can look up amazon wishlists from within Booksprice.

Their spam offered me a free copy of Orhan Pamuk’s “My Name is Red” or “Snow” – books I’ve been wanting to read anyway — whether I blogged about them or not.

A nice deal & a good way to treat potential customers. Though… of course… who are they, and why are they? What business? Perhaps they’re really a branch of Amazon. Or maybe they get a referral commission on books you buy through them?

Reporting on the conference

I’m liveblogging the ALTA conference on the group blog, literarytranslators.blogspot.com. It’s a lot of work – I’m working very hard to make it not too sloppy or raw; to add links; and to get details, especially people’s names, correct.

I hope it’s helpful to give ALTA members and others an idea of what the conference is like. (Probably some people here think it is pretentious or annoying or that I’m checking my email, or being disrespectful.. but just so you know, my intentions are good. I try to sit in the back of a room, so as not to disturb anyone too much with my clickety typing noises or my unfortunate fidgeting.)

I’m hoping to get more translators to sign up for the group blog – even if they write something only a few times a year, it would help to make the ALTA blog lively, fun, and valuable to everyone.

I had trouble getting on the Hilton Bellevue hotel’s wireless, despite having paid for it. The manager, Frank, happened to walk by while I was asking if there was a particular problem, or a place with better reception, so I could send out my conference reports. (A ‘mere’ blogger, behaving all biggety, like a journalist.) How wonderfully nice – Frank gave me a hotel room right on the 3rd floor, not to sleep in, but to sit in with privacy and quiet and reliable wireless access. I appreciate it, and am finding it’s helping me to keep my head together in the whirl of social networking, to disappear for half an hour periodically during the day.

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An apology and a resolution

I talk a lot about the exposure of process, and about the risk of making mistakes. For the 3rd issue of “Composite: Multiple Translations” I worked with a guest editor, Sholeh Wolpé, who curated the translations of a poem by Forough Farrokhzad. Unfortunately, in our process, I made some crucial mistakes, and so distributed perhaps 10 or 20 copies of the issue that have errors in Sholeh’s translation on pages 12 and 13. At her request (and with great contrition and embarrassment) I withdraw that issue, and as soon as possible will correct the error (in the breaks between stanzas, and the loss of italics) and will reprint the issue.

What I learned here is that, having often acted as a maverick publisher, I had insufficient collaborative process. I proofread, edited, did layout, corrected typos, etc., putting in a lot of hard work. However, with a guest editor (and maybe, too, with all the poets in an issue) I should send proofs before I print, rather than rushing to print with my usual impulse towards quick execution, instant gratification, efficiency, and a short attention span.

As a seat-of-the-pants xerox zine, again, I’m not used to operating with that level of formalism. However, I find now, of course, that that’s no excuse.

If I gave/sold you a copy of this zine, please email me your name and snail mail address, and I’ll send you a new, correct version! (Destroy the old one.)

So, one problem appears to have been in file formats between computers and computer software.

But the other problem was in my lack of collaborative process. I’ll try to be better about that.

Litcrawl report

Litcrawl swarmed across the few blocks on Valencia and Mission where I spend quite a lot of my time in San Francisco, betwen 16th and 24th. I started out parking on Mission, checking out the clothing stores, & then worked for a bit in Ritual Roasters, ran into Annalee and other people I knew. Noticed that public-event feeling where people were being unusually friendly or nice on the street, a convivial fellow-feeling, conspiratorial.

I figured that on the way to the reading I planned to go to, the MIssion poets at Dalva, I’d peek into the translation readings. Peeked. Heard John Oliver Simon do a very hilariously Ezra Pound-style reading of his translation of Gonzalo Rojas’ poem about Canto-Poundiness & imitators. Voice quavering in majestic rolling sweeps! I laughed my head off. And it was a great poem. He read the X405 poem about prison and the polyhedrons that was in, I think, the “Cells” issue of Two Lines.

Then nipped out to go to Dalva. No such luck. I could not shove into the room down the narrow corridor to the back. Damn.

So, back to the One World reading at Abandoned Planet, where I caught Chana Bloch reading a prayer for peace from a book called “Open Closed Open. And “The Politics of Applying Moderate Physical Pressure”. My notes are not great – I was listening to hard to take notes. I liked the poems. Then Nasreen and Hamida Chopra reading English translations & doing Urdu recitations. hamida’s recitations were amazing – masterful – I was fascinated with the form. Olivia mentioned “Moshaira” (sp? look for link) or the “Urdu Poetry Slam” which happens soon in Berkeley. I listened as hard as I could try to learn words and hear patterns and try to match them up with what I heard in the English. “your voice” – i could hear the powerfulness in the urdu where i did not hear it as much in the English; form and density. “There’s no messiah for a broken mirror” – an amazing poem. Fez Amit Fez? I’m sorry if I spell everything wrong… I loved this poem to death. wealth – goblets & mirrors are made – they auction off mountain after mountain, ocean after ocean.

Niloufar Talebi from The Translation Project read translations from 5 different poets writing in Farsi – all from Iran and all living outside of Iran. Heavenly variety! My notes are sketchy and I haven’t looked up spellings but I’ll do that and correct & add links:
1) poet living in Australia “Post-Cinderella”
2) Dena? Bina? b. 1934 fled 1979 living in Sweden “Yearning for Sari” (region in northern iran)
3) guy – also in sweden – “Book of Fear” – “Fear #45”
4) Ziba Karbassi – b. 1974 left 1989 living in the UK monolingual “Revolution” – very powerful poem like a children’s rhyme- “starheart” – whoa! I reacted v. strongly to this poem and want more
5) Abbas Saffari – lives in u.s. published frequently in Iran – translated chinese, japanese, ancient egyptian, erotic poetry. “Revenge en Tehran”

A fabulous reading. Then I was off to Encantada Gallery for the Flor y Canto reading organized and MC-ed by Alejandro Murguia. He declaimed “O California”. Ananda Esteva read “When Latinos go Buddhist” and “Notification of Baggage Inspection” ffrom her book Pisco Sours. Milta Ortiz recited [Take me off this timeline I’m on] about not getting married. and then a longer piece about relationships. I liked the salute. “your nazi girl reporting for duty sir! mission: no feelings! objective: pleasure!” That cracked me up… rueful recognition… Luis uribe recited from Hummingbird’s Daughter – excellent – “Teresita, only a goddamned idiot wouldn’t see god in a taco.” Ruben Alexander Barron lives in the south bay – book “American Poet” – told story about monks and river and “bbrother you are still carrying her”… dithered a little shyly and then declaimed, ranted, denounced “Imperialism” in a fiery beautiful wave of conviction & rhymes. YEAH! Alejandro did another piece for us – El Camino – y “16th and Valencia” about poets & rage, blew me the fuck away. Harold Norr, Oscar Ceta Acosta. “even the furniture was angry” “I knew this was the last call… dying for nothing, freight train … a crazy mutiny aboard a battleship every porthole filled with anger and we are NOT LEAVING.” “quicksand swallow me up or the FBI… make this poem a jungle…” I dig his work, beautiful revolutionary strong violent steadfast humorous & humanistic. Chicanopalooza mentioned & exhibit at museum

Then I was off to Writers With Drinks & Manic D Press at the Latin American Club. Charlie MC-ed the first half. The room was fucking packed so I weaselled up to the front and sat at the back of the stage; I could never stand up that long, my knee is too messed up. Alvin Orloff read – from novel about a whiny telemarketer. Lauren Wheeler – poet – erotica – whip – some very sexy stuff – Claire Light read her story about the men gone and the boys disappearing, a beautiful story and the beginning especially beautiful – the onions & crease of armpit & breast & the way the boys feel their tongues in their mouths – and then I ahve read many people’s attempts to make people see what men’s rapability would really mean, what it would take to reverse the power structure and dynamic, and this story did it; how narratively to establish some of the injustice of a system, terror & helplessness & bravado – I liked the end. Why she says the story isn’t done, I have no idea – Justin Chin read an amazing long piece about… well… damn, it starts out about his dad in heaven playing golf with Celia Cruz. His work fucking rocks. I would like to hear him and Steve Arntson read together, so they could hear each other. Then Jennifer Blowdryer read from her recent book, the how-to-be tranny one, snarky and funny – Jon Longhi read some stuff from wake up and smell the beer, which was all funny and good but i have already by coincidence heard him do everything he read, twice or sometimes more, over the last couple of years! It was good anyway.

Amazing tacos and ceviche at Taqueria Can-Cun at mission & … 20th? 19th? somewhere. Then to the Elbo Room for the afterparty which I slimed into since I didn’t have an invite. Ended up sort of making out scandalously in a photobooth with Meliza and her partner. They have the photographic evidence with my phone number and a lipstick print on the back. None of us were even drunk. Told them the strange story of my fantasy about me and Buzz Aldrin in our lunar rover. Meliza and her partner just got married in Vegas! In my opinion it makes a party better to have some wild child types careening around giggling & floozyish & flirting – so why should it not be me. I’m doing it for you, people. My noble civic duty.

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Art 21 poetry reading – October

Art 21 poetry reading
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

The art gallery was full of amazing paintings this month! I briefly met Teresa Hsu and admired her huge paintings of rocks… the sort of thing I wish I could capture when I’m staring into a clear stream at wet pebbles, very beautiful. Then, as I was setting up chairs for the reading, I ran into a wire sculpture of the gorilla. The gorilla won. Ph33r the gorilla! Susan, the gallery owner, helped me to tape my bleeding nipple back onto my body with bandaids, and a fierce adrenaline rush fueled my MC-ing for the rest of the evening. Who knew I’d get a free piercing?! Just one of the perks of the job.

Dolores Hayden opened up the evening with poems from her recent book American Yard. I scribbled down some lines, but since she gave me a copy of the book (Thanks!) I can fill out this bit from “For Rent” that struck me:

…long views expand,
command wide axes everywhere,
entice your kind of hairpin vision,
a swaying wide and cambering in.

Maybe just because I like the word “cambering”, back from when I had a wheelchair with cambered wheels. Camber, limber, lumber, climber, words that seem clumsy but instead – nimble. “Hairpin” in close proximity to “camber” made weird neurons fire. I was also superenthralled by “Target Practice”, a multilingual poem about crows in Grenada, which I heard as a complex noticing of racism and misogyny… or we could say “race and the feminine” but hey. It’s a fabulous poem. I might talk about it at the ALTA conference at the panel on multilingual poetry.

Kate Evans read as the second featured poet of the evening, mostly from her very very recent book, Like All We Love. The first section, and first poem, “First”, focused in on mortality… Kate commented that a lot of poems were about being in bed, sex and death, you know… and there were cheers and hoots from the other poets, of “Right on!” She read a long poem about her father, her suburban childhood, and her father’s illness & dying. I most enjoyed the poems from the middle section – or were they from “Fluid Self” ? – on Ginger from Gilligan’s Island & on the Wizard of Oz, but that’s because I’m shallow. Her “Diet Poem” was a whole different animal, very oral, very spoken-wordy, excellent out loud, playful and thoughtful.

So, wow! What a nice result from my call for poets on the WOMPO women’s poetry mailing list. When I did that call, I noticed that about the first 5 or 6 people to write to me were men. I was not specifically looking for women for any reason – I just asked because that’s the poet list I’m on that I like the most – But think about that for a bit for what it was. Perfectly nice men – but they rush forward without doubt or hestitation for self promotion in a context that is in theory focused on women and their work. For example, were I on a poetry list for gay men of color, which existed to discuss gay men’s poetry and aesthetics and history and to promote their work, and someone asked for poets on that list, I might *think twice* about answering… And if as the person making that call I got my first 5 answers from straight white women, I’d be perturbed… And so I was very happy when a few days later, the emails from women poets began to come to my inbox.

We had a break, with Steve Arntson playing Chopin and Mozart for us on the grand piano with his usual delicacy and passion. Whenever he plays Chopin I freak out and travel back in time to when I was 13 or 14 and playing that stuff, picking out complicated nocturnes and frisking through waltzes, preludes, mazurkas; while for me it was a joy to exert this immense effort to manifest a tiny percent of what I felt, for Steve it seems more like breathing – he plays so effortlessly and beautifully. It’s a pleasure to hear. (But also makes me SO jealous.) Oh, and he brought the fanciest cake ever, with fruit and whipped cream and white chocolate painted with stenciled designs – delicious! Thanks, man!

I talked with Brenda about the next issue of Composite: Multiple Translations, and then ended up somehow spouting off to Dolores about my enormous Anthology. She was intrigued and very encouraging, saying wild things like “But, you should send queries to the Oxford University Press! To Norton! A perfect textbook! Important!” Which was sort of like hearing someone say “You should, of course, just fly to Mars! The Martians will crown you as their Queen!”

Anna Coulter started off the open mic session with some poems from her new art book, which I think is called “Transformations”. She’s having a show at Art21 next month, which will intersect with our Art21 poetry reading! Jane Kos read “Corrido” and announced the next meeting of the Redwood City Not Yet Dead Poets Society. I should mention here that the NYDPS founder Anatole Lubovich – and I’ve written about his poems, and his death, here before – Anyway – you can and should order his “Selected Poems” published posthumously – from booknest@sbcglobal.net, the Book Nest in Los Altos. What an amazing guy, and I still miss him a lot in all our poetry scenes on the Peninsula!

Rob Neville read “The Barrel of a Gun”, about violence, guns, and cancer. Brenda Simmons read another poem that had bullets in it and that I really loved – and thought to myself that it’s been at least a year since I’ve heard her read and her work is going in some interesting directions – more compressed, more saturated – but I didn’t write down any lines, unfortunately. Steve Arntson recited a huge chunk of a long poem about the Lewis and Clark River, another geographical historical philosophical exploration of reality and fiction, as usual exploding my mindscape!! David Cummings (I was so waiting for him to read, and hoping Dolores would not read, because I felt that they would especially like each others’ work!) really outdid himself with amazing excellence in a long poem, I didn’t catch the name – “as if mysteriously roused from the drifts of a greening sleep – ” More bullets and war and death and catastrophe and subtleties piled on top of each other so that listening was like deciphering sedimentary strata after millions of years and several earthquakes. It was some good stuff, I’m telling you.

Susan, the gallery owner, read a beautiful piece about realizing you’re not lost in the forest – the trees know where they are and where you are. It was a nice reminder for me to chill and walk with the flow of life as it happens. I read two of my translations of poems by Carmen Berenguer, because I’m totally in love with her lately, and translating her is a freaked-out violent joy. Read from “Bala humanitaria” (“Humanitarian bullet”), continuing the theme of bullets and war, so appropriate since we’re perpetrating an enormous criminal horrible war at the moment in this country; and “Mollusk” which is lighter but super fun to read out loud: it’s about, well, “about”… femininity and performativity and capitalism and objectification and violence against women – while being short, deceptively simple, and funny. I should try to memorize it for the Declamacion at the ALTA conference.

Talked a tiny bit with Dolores’ husband Peter, who is a sociologist and novelist. When he said he wrote about Africa and also young adult fiction I suddenly was like “OMFG am I talking to
Peter Dickinson, say it is not so!” No… it was not so. That really would have been too much for my brain to handle. But I’ll look for his books.

What a nice time I had – I felt happy and in a loving poets’ community – I only wish more of the “usual suspects” had showed up this month, because they would have enjoyed the features and been enjoyed in return. Though it was a small reading, we definitely had critical mass in the party sense, with the jazz going, the wine flowing, people all talking, and a nice feeling of convivial bohemian artiness, wine-and-cheese-party palo alto style.

That’s enough, I think!

Nitpicking at Langston

So, I keep vaguely talking about Hughes’ editorial choices – what, of Mistral, he chose to translate and present to a U.S. English-speaking audience. Selecting poems to represent a poet’s work is a hard job! I respect what he did, and yet have many critiques of it. And how it was read – as critics and other poets and editors praised him for capturing the essence of Mistral’s womanliness. Leaving aside the problem of Mistral’s mystical womanliness – for someone so complexly genderfucked – I want to look at some of Hughes’ choices as a translator. Specifically, I want to nitpick a translation and in fact, I would go so far as to call it a complete misreading. A gendered misreading. (I have more to say about Mistral and race, and Hughes’ biography, and how here, Hughes wanted to see and believe in that nurturing mixed-race populist world-mother that in fact, Mistral represented herself as, and bought into. But this poem in particular struck me as Hughes’ mistaking of Mistral’s coolness and her radical position as a woman writing women.

Here is the poem in Spanish:


Esta era una rosa
que abaja el rociò:
este era mi pecho
con el hijo mío.

Junta sus hojitas
para sostenerlo
y esquiva los vientos
por no desprenderlo.

Porque él ha bajado
desde el cielo inmenso
será que ella tiene
su aliento suspenso.

De dicha se queda
callada, callada:
no hay rosa entre rosas
tan maravillada.

Esta era una rosa
que abaja el rocío:
este era mi pecho
con el hijo mío.

What is this poem *about*? Dew… But Hughes makes it about a son. He sees a Virgin Mary worshipping her son. Sentimentally and rather tritely. In my opinion, he misses something crucial in the poem’s voice and italics; it is written in two different voices! The mother (older) contemplating her own breasts and what they have done – in the bracketing stanzas in italics. And the middle 3 stanzas where her marvel at the act of nursing is described.

Here is Hughes’ translation:


This was a rose
kissed by the dew:
This was the breast
my son knew.

Little leaves meet,
soft not to harm him,
and the wind makes a detour
not to alarm him.

he came down one night
from the great sky;
for him she holds her breath
so he won’t cry.

Happily quiet,
not a sound ever;
rose among roses
more marvellous never.

This was a rose
kissed by the dew;
this was my breast
my son knew.

To nitpick further. The winds are not making a detour; if they were, they’d be “esquivan” not “esquiva”. So the winds are not the subject. I’m just saying. Rather: the rose and her petals avoid the wind, to protect *the dew*.

Here is my translation:


This was a rose
covered in dew
This was my breast
and my nursing baby.

She pulls in her petals
to hold the dewdrops,
and shies away from the wind
lest they loosen and fall.

Since the dew has descended
from infinite heaven,
she’ll have to
hold her breath.

At her great luck, she remains
hushed, hushed:
out of all roses, this rose
is so amazing.

This was a rose
covered in dew
this was my breast
and my nursing baby.

(disclaimer… I could improve on this if I fiddled with it for a while longer. That’s actually a first pass effort.)

Yes, she is marvelling at her baby. But first of all she is marvelling at her breastmilk! That’s the point! She’s stunned, quiet, amazed, holding her breath at the amazingness of the milk – not only at the fact of the baby itself! It’s way more like Inanna applauding her wondrous vulva than it is like a Hallmark card about a mom cooing over her babe that came down from heaven.

Yes, I do think I can grok a poem about breastfeeding better than some dude, no matter how cool he is. (And he is cool – I totally love him. But I do not really love his translations of Mistral! Oh, Langston! )

Just a little translatory rant to liven things up. I could pick apart quite a lot of that little Hughes book, in totally insane detail.

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Literary events coming up

Tonight I’m going to the Marsh Theater to Lynnee Breedlove’s “One Freak Show”. Come and join me! Maybe dinner or drinks afterward?

On Saturday, for Litcrawl, I’m going to:

PHASE I, 6–7 p.m.

Dalva (21 and over)
3121 16th Street
Poetry Mission: Spoken Word Poets Take the Stage
Lineup includes: Rupert Estanislao, Leticia Hernández-Linares, Ise Lyfe, Phillip T. Nails, Dan O., Aimee Suzara, and Kirya Traber. Emcee: Elz Cuya.

Sounds fabulous, I like Leticia’s work a lot, don’t know the others, so the draw for me is getting to hear work I won’t otherwise hear.


Abandoned Planet Bookstore
518 Valencia Street
One World, Many Languages: Literature in Translation
Lineup includes: Chana Bloch, Hamida Banu Chopra, Zack Rogow, John Oliver Simon, and Niloufar Talebi.

I love all these translators, but actually, will see most of them next week at the American Literary Translators conference in Seattle! So that might mean I skip the event where all my homies will be.


No question here, I’m going to this. Genderqueer is at the same time and I want to support that event but I already know most of those people and their work and hear them at queer readings.

Encantada Gallery
908 Valencia Street
Flor Y Canto: Chicano/Latino Writers in English
Lineup includes: Ruben A. Barron, Ananda Esteva, Melissa Lozano, Alejandro Murguia, Milta Ortiz, and Luis Alberto Urrea.

PHASE III, 8:30–9:30 p.m.

No question here, either. The Casa del Libro event looks good too but I am a huge fan of WWD.

Latin American Club (21 and over)
3286 22nd Street
Getting Boozy: Writers With Drinks and Manic D Press
Writers With Drinks: Claire Light, Lauren Wheeler, and Alvin Orloff. Emcee: Charlie Anders. Manic D Press: Jennifer Blowdryer, Justin Chin, and Jon Longhi. Emcee: Jennifer Joseph

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Biographies for children

The Crisis
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

I’m reading up on Langston Hughes, his biographies and poetry. The more I read about him the more I love him.

I read all the juvenile non-fiction biographies of him today, and noticed fascinating differences over time. Early biographies from the 50s and 60s simplified his early life. Later ones complicate it more and more. It’s not made complicated according to the intended age of the reader. In fact the most recent biographies outline all sorts of complexities; his mom’s poverty, his mom and dad’s breakup and attempt to get back together, his living with his grandmother; his stepdad and stepbrother, the failure of his mom’s second marriage, etc. etc. Even how later in life his mom reproached him for not sending her enough money… but he still loved her and sent her as much as he could.

In the Alice Walker bio from the 1970s – aimed at elementary school kids – the n word is used liberally and there are detailed descriptions of racism… and a description of his dad’s racism against Mexican native americans… While later bios from the 90s mention racism, but gloss over it, and leave out n***** and avoid mention of Hughes’ poems that use the word, like Mulatto – unlike the earlier more hard-hitting bios and anthologies.

You don’t get that kind of overview of the changing ways that history sees and frames a person, or their writing, and their political meanings, from reading one (the most recent) biography. I thought this “junior biography journey” was pretty interesting! Especially for Hughes, who wrote so many books for children himself, including biographies.

And I should have taken better notes – in fact I’ll try to go back to the library and write up the 5 or 6 biographies that I read, with citations.

The impulse to be minor

When I’m editing a wiki, even privately, I have the impulse to click “This is a minor edit,” even when I’ve made significant changes. It seems presumptious to have an implied “major edit” be the default. I don’t want to contribute too much noise to the signal of the wiki’s Recent Changes page.

Part of the impulse to label all my edits “minor” is because I twiddle and save frequently; I’ll edit a few words out of a sentence here and there, save, and go right back to that paragraph. I blog that way too, screwing up everyone’s RSS feeds, publishing carelessly as an idea comes, and then fiddling with the entry over the next hour as I realize my phrasing was clumsy or a new idea, related, strikes me.

On a related but different level, I believe that it is important to expose the process of thought, the evolution of intellect, the muddled waters where research and inspiration meet and ideas coalesce. Many people don’t know how to think; they don’t think they think; they can’t see themselves thinking, because they only have seen “finished products” and never the intermediate stages. Uncertainty is forbidden. It is private. It’s personal. It’s weak and vulnerable. That is a limitation I see as unnecessary. It is often useful, but not always. It’s a barrier to collaboration and to learning.

But then I wonder if both these behaviors in myself, the constant “minor editing” of blog and wiki, might signify an asymptotic process-focus, where I regard nothing as done, nothing as major, nothing achieved. My poems remain in their notebooks and rough drafts indefinitely. I consider even my master’s thesis as a “draft”. It pains me to refer to it as finished.

Gender plays into this. Women underplay their acheivements & work. I do it too. I don’t want to bring attention, or be under fire. I rarely feel any work is done, good enough; I might change my mind. Everything could be improved. I can think of someone who has done part of that, or expressed the idea, more neatly, more professionally. And yet I consider myself bold! What baggage, what damage, we carry.

A good friend and I were discussing this the other day as we rushed to deprecate ourselves and our collaborative work on our own private wiki. “I haven’t done enough.” “No, I haven’t done enough!” Then we realized what we were doing. The conversation led to our discussing how we compare our own work to the best in our field, come up short, and feel we are impostors. As I contemplated this impulse in myself I realized I compare my own thesis, as a work in progress (seriously, it’s not really *done* done, no matter what the diploma says!) to writing by women 30 years older than myself who are on their 10th book. We are not comparing ourselves to our peers, but to the best we see — and worse than that, to the best we can imagine. On some level I am proud of this impulse, and think it will help me to keep improving my work for my entire lifetime. However, this strange combination of arrogance and humility can be a huge obstacle; when it blocks me, I have to try to break myself of the mental habit of “being minor.”

As a generalist who is constructing anthologies, I also put a lot of pressure on myself, and feel pressure from outside, to have depth of knowledge as well as range. I cannot be as much of an expert on each poet, or each country, as women who (again) are usually far older than myself and further along in their careers and who have focused down in a narrow area.

Despite all these things, I am becoming more and more comfortable claiming authority. I credit technology and the control over the means of production that it’s brought me with part of my own intellectual evolution. Without the freedom to publish and edit, publish and edit, in a cyclical pattern, exposing “drafts” — unlike the publication of a book that would have to start out more perfect that I could imagine, and that would never be fixable — I would not have had the confidence to step into a public forum of ideas. My notebooks, essays, poems, and all that would have stayed, like so many other women’s over history, in diaries and personal letters.

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