At the Babel Conference

This past Saturday, I pretended I could shift my academic work day to Sunday so that I could attend the Saturday sessions of the 2015 Babel Conference here at the University of Toronto. I felt so guilty not working and yet, shirking my duties for one type of work led to a different kind of work that was just as, if not more, important in its own way.

In the poetry/translation session, there was a woman (Vanessa Scott) who was carrying around yarn and crochet hooks for an art piece linking women and textiles/textuality. Anyone who was able to could contribute a link or two to the chain. I started crocheting in the translation session between writing pseudo-translation poems and afterwards, Vanessa gave me several lengths of yarn to work on as the day wore on, telling me, “You’re good at this. I want to see no less than 9!” I took her up on the offer and crocheted during the dance performances of Cleopatra, Philomela, Salomé. I took the yarn to the session on Hybrid Publishing and worked steadily there, snapping and tweeting these photos, calling it Women’s Work and Multitasking.

Women's Work I Women's Work II

As a single parent of two kids — a title that feels both foreign and familiar, and a role I’m getting used to as days pass — and as an older student, I’ve had to face a work-life balance that men do not have to face — the daily multitasking and emotional labour of being a female-bodied, feminine embodied person in this world. I am coming to terms with my own internalized misogyny. I have oft referred to myself as a gender-neutral ‘parent’ rather than as a ‘mother’ because of the baggage that word carries with it for me. I call myself a person, rather than a woman, because of how uncomfortable I feel being called and referred to as a woman. I am a parent. I am a person. But on Saturday, that shifted.

A poem I wrote in Saturday’s session, a pseudo-translation based on an Old English text, reflects the tension I feel between my own staccato relationship with my mother and my nigh resplendent experiences AS a mother, working to give my children so much maternal connection that I have lacked as a daughter to my own mother.

Crocheting while writing poetry is a familiar place for me. I have found myself in that same space often. I am a poet. I knit. I crochet. However, crocheting in the Hybrid Publishing session, I felt really uncomfortable not paying what looked like full attention to the speakers in the discussion. I felt like I wasn’t playing the game properly. It was a collision of my identities. A collision of worlds — of the private, home-based sphere of text and textile-based creativity and craft, and the semi-public, professional sphere of academia. And while sitting with that discomfort, I then realized that I was also there in that session as a performer of women’s work, showing that I could multitask and pay attention just fine to what was being said. After all, this is what Stitch’n’Bitch groups and sewing bees are all about — talking and connecting while creating textile-based crafts. I felt on showcase in that session as a woman doing what is traditionally women’s work in a [traditionally male-dominated] academic and very technological setting: people were live-tweeting and the session was centred around digital publishing. It wouldn’t have had the same effect were a man crocheting in that session. It would look like the same action, but it would not be the same action for the simple and laden reason that crocheting is an activity centred in the female sphere. I incorporated the textiles and the digital medium in a tweet, which brought the chain full circle, linking women’s work and multitasking to academia and the digital world of connected and interconnected social media.

Because this particular session was set up as a discussion from the beginning, with no papers or presentations, I was able to participate, which is new for me. In a discussion thread, one of the organizers had suggested that it was the labour of an article or of the editing of an article that was important and not the process of it. I raised my hand between crocheting chain stitches and said, initially, “You cannot extricate labour from process.” He nodded, in a dawning accordance. I finished what I had to say and then tweeted this quote, which the other organizer immediately retweeted. We were all multitasking and connecting. Yet, I had the extra with me. The crocheting. The additionally-visible layer of multitasking as a woman in this world, labouring and processing, stitch by stitch, tweet by retweet, connecting with others in that room, others on Twitter, connecting with all the other women crocheting and dancing and sharing other parts of themselves, and finally, connecting with other aspects of myself that I didn’t know were there. It was a unifying experience for me:

Connection. Women’s work. Labour. Process. Motherhood. Poetry. Academia. Texts/textiles/textuality and the inter-connected inter-textuality of Womanness.

I am not just an academic. I am not just a poet.

I am not just a parent; I’m not just a person. Because of the experiences of that day, I feel safe to say I am a mother. I feel empowered to say I am a woman.

This conference was really healing for me in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Do What You Love

Years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the fabulousness of Florence Foster Jenkins, an astonishing singer with more guts and determination (and possibly delusions) than most of us have. The first song of hers I heard was Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria, Der Hölle Rache, from The Magic Flute. It was etched so firmly into my psyche as the “right” way to sing this song that anytime I hear it sung the socially acceptable and appreciated way, it sounds wrong to me. Boring. Uninspired. Technically perfect but utterly lacking in soul, style or personality.

“People may say I can’t sing,” she said, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

So last week, when another friend posted this 8-year old girl’s rendition of her favourite aria, I had to have a listen, and I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was completely entertained and thoroughly thrilled for her. She strikes a beautifully Continue reading

Redefining Beauty: Compassion in Action

What this man is doing is just the most beautiful thing ever. He deserves All The Awards for his work. Watch/Read Here

Photo Credit: Rick Guidotti

“The idea is to put the humanity — make sure that humanity is in medicine. To make sure that we see, not a disease, a diagnosis, but a human being. I know, we all know that there’s a lot of science in medicine, but I can assure you there’s a lot of art in medicine as well.”

“That is so important… It’s not what you’re treating; it’s who you’re treating.”

“I dare you to see beauty and once you see it, it overwhelms you. It’s extraordinary.”

—Rick Guidotti, photographer and amazing human being.

The only downside is that this is all being called “a new kind of beauty.” This, to me, is like the idea of Christopher Columbus discovering America. No, guys, it was always there; we just didn’t see it as easily as we do now. This is not a new beauty. This is not new. What IS new is that someone is actually recording it and showing us how to see with new eyes.

The beauty was always already there.

It was always already there.

All you need to do is stand in a mirror and see with new eyes that

you

are

beautiful

NaPoWriMo :: Day 3

ecstatic morning staggers in blossoming flagrant
and wild with dirt and a bouquet of bruises
healing want, we work out our secrets
sounds linger like liquid bombs,
an effervescent effusion of
honest love songs sung to the wind
the dawning sun shines hot on our skin
a sated profusion of desire still breathing us in

On Noetic Nuance

I’m a word geek. I love how words sound and how interrelational they can be, replete with layers of meaning and internal reference. Noetic is an adjective that comes from the Greek noetikos, intellectual, which comes from noein, to think, which comes from nous, mind. So noetic means of, relating to, or based in the intellect.

Here’s further information taken from a HuffPo blog post about the word noetic and the burgeoning branch of science calling itself noetic science:

no•et•ic: From the Greek noēsis/ noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, or subjective understanding. As defined by the philosopher William James in 1902, noetic refers to “states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority…”

sci•ence: Systems of acquiring knowledge that use observation, experimentation, and replication to describe and explain natural phenomena

no•et•ic sci•ences: A multidisciplinary field that brings objective scientific tools and techniques together with subjective inner knowing to study the full range of human experience.

In other words, there are several ways we can know the world around us. Science focuses on external observation and is grounded in objective evaluation, measurement, and experimentation. This is useful in increasing objectivity and reducing bias and inaccuracy as we interpret what we observe.

But another way of knowing is subjective — or internal — including gut feelings, intuition, hunches — the way you know you love your children, for example, or experiences you have that cannot be explained or proven, but feel absolutely real nonetheless. This way of knowing is what we call noetic.

From a purely materialist, mechanistic perspective, all subjective — noetic — experience arises from physical matter, and consciousness is simply a byproduct of brain and body processes. The noetic sciences focus on bringing a scientific lens to the study of subjective experience, and to ways that consciousness may influence the physical world.

Consciousness has been defined in many ways, but in this context, consciousness is awareness — how people perceive, interpret, and direct their attention and intention toward their environment. Collective consciousness is how a group (an institution, a society, a species) perceives, attends to, and makes meaning of the world. In its largest, most universal sense, consciousness has been referred to as a “milieu of potential,” the shared ground of being from which all experiences and phenomena arise and eventually return.

The essential hypothesis underlying the noetic sciences is, put simply, that consciousness matters.

[source]

 

On a personal level, because ‘noetic’ rhymes with ‘poetic’, it references the poetic for me when it look at it. And the inverse is somewhat true, as well. When I look at ‘poetic’, I see mind and consciousness intertwined with heart and spirit.

I find it curious that the dictionary definitions focus on the intellect but the word has its roots in the mind. When someone thinks of their mind, it’s not just brain. There’s extra there. Mind is a tricky word to define because it’s not just the thinky part.

Adding layers to the idea that thinky = brain, we can look and notice that there are neural clusters in both the heart and the gut. So what does that do to our idea of the intellect being based solely on the brain? Turns it on its head, is what it does. 😉

Noetikos is a full body experience. So is poetry. There are nuances and layers of meaning within the concept of ‘mind’, within the concept of ‘intellect’, within the lines that we write on the page, within the impromptu and practiced lines we speak to each other. Unconscious foreshadowing, personal and universal symbolism, it all follows us around and is woven through the fibres of our synaptic sequencing and the constellations of clusters we call friends and family, bodies of texts, bodies of knowledge, embodied spirit, embodiment of love and all the information that state of being holds. The subtleties of consciousness embedded within a physical framework.

Noetic Nuance.

 

Doing Readings

I had it thoroughly underscored for me this weekend at my chapbook launch that poetry is meant to be performed. Not just read or spoken, but performed. My poetry is, at least.

I think, in large part, that’s why so many people say that poetry is dead or is dying — performing it gives it life, imbues the words with emotion, brings nuance into relief that wasn’t apparent with silent text on paper.

And, for me, I discovered a sort of reciprocal enlivening when I read my works. It was the first time I’d ever gotten up in front of a large group and read my own material, outside of a couple of times in high school some 20 years ago. It left me feeling completely invigorated.

 

A big thank you goes out to Luciano Iacobelli and Lyricalmyrical Press for publishing my chapbook, Weaving Spirit, and for hosting the launch. I had a really lovely time and I’m so grateful for everyone who showed up to support those of us reading. Y’all are awesome. 🙂

And OMG, I only have 1 copy of my chapbook left! Wheeee! I wish I had enough cash to do a reprint.