there is nowhere to begin

on this day, easter Sunday April 20, 2014

(already an imitation; I was reading ginsberg)

it felt like Transcription of Organ Music in my room or in my body or in the air as I laid on my bed staring at my books unused and dusty on their shelves so I grabbed his collected poems & turned to it

at first I read without speaking but then I whispered & why not say it out loud (nobody’s home) so after brief feeling of not-wanting-to I did & it was a different thing: the urge to write, the need for pencil & no erasing

it was strange & wonderful & seductive to hear my own voice (a version of a voice that’s mine, or something)

I said seductive

& I wondered if it’s possible to hear your own voice / that voice that carries your words for others / to others; can we listen to ourselves?

do we hear ourselves?

reading aloud makes possible a kind of understanding (maybe we can’t understand it in words)

it’s the sound of the words & the sound of your voice, saying them, that makes you understand / makes a connection

poetry has always been difficult

in the way that all Stein is difficult

but clarity came quickly, more easily, when I listened (or tried)—his words, my voice (we hope that we know ourselves / know ourselves enough to hear something in our voice / to transmit something from sound to mind / or even to feel that we have)

(take note: the possibility of elsewhere / as in, not the mind)

I am not a believer: I don’t pray to things and I don’t buy lottery tickets

(and yet…)

the most I can hope for is awareness, the present, the opposite of a bird’s eye view

I return to the phrase: “the privilege to witness my existence”

(just before it occurs to me that life is incredibly good right now, at this moment, in my room in Brooklyn with an open allen ginsberg collection by my side & music & a homecooked dinner in belly & the window open / & maybe it’s the music but my head / my existence / my experience of this room & these sounds & this body & this day may EXPLODE I’m not sure where)

I return to it because for the first time I paid attention to the phrase immediately after: “you too must seek the sun” which brought me back to the first line & the flower: crooked to receive the sunlight & open to receive

we have the privilege (the flower does not) to feel / to know (what is knowing) that we must seek what’s good for us, what’s needed

& the flower seeks it anyway; it cannot not seek it (a professor had a word for that once)

the flower cannot not be OPEN to seeking (a crooked stem, a sacrifice; the stalk must bend, death must come more quickly, so that life—at all—is possible) & receiving the sun: energy of all

so, a lesson: be as the flower

“The closet door is open for me, where I left it, since I left it open, / it has graciously stayed open.”

amazing, I thought, upon reading (hearing)

the recognition of graciousness on the part of a closet door, inanimate, & that is the beauty of it: stillness is possible (the stem will make itself bend to find the sun; multiply one million times…volcano)

this is not a question of object versus organism

this is a question of constancy & change

this is a small observation

& in the margins I wrote: I can’t finish the poem / a day in pieces / too much to transcribe

(remember if you can what it felt like to run away)

(why?)

because I felt myself compelled

(don’t start a sentence with because)

I said so because I said so because I said so

(are you okay?)

I am if it’s merely lost, because then I can find it

They looked so young sitting there. She had a tattoo on her left hand, bright red at the ends of her hair, a ring in her nose. Neither looked at me just then. They were silent with baby fat cheeks and eyes half-open, her hand half-clasped in his, loosely. He had a backpack. She had a shopping bag between her feet. The hour was not unusual. There—her head on his shoulder, eyes down, with a look of absent-minded defeat—they must be running away. I don’t wonder about it. I write it. I write it into existence.

She looked at me with furrowed brows, a sudden show of intensity. (Does she know that I am writing this, their calm fatigue, attempting to remember an impulse I might have never felt?)

They look so young.

I switch tenses in the middle of a story. A story about the impossibility of tenses & of time, the absence of memory, the trick to observation (misinterpretation).

With quiet eyes she lifts her head, adjusts the collar of his black down coat, and my idea of them escapes (evaporates?). A girl on the run. His face is blank, her eyes alert. (She can see.)

muñoz & sedgwick, both gone, both brilliant, & w says to me, “be like them Jess” 

muñoz & sedgwick, both gone, both brilliant, & w says to me, “be like them Jess” 

Tags: someday

curriculum vitae; OR can do it / will do it / beginning again & again & again

Education:

B.A. (Summa Cum Laude), American Studies, Barnard College, 2013

GPA: 4.03

Senior Thesis (awarded Distinction): “Edible Writing, Queer Eating, & the Poetry of Gertrude Stein”

Select Courses Taken:

Food and American Life (Rachel Adams, Columbia University), A History of Thinking About Food (Steven Shapin, Columbia University), Food, Ethnicity, and Globalization (Kim Hall, Barnard College)                                    

The Ethnographic Imagination (Rosalind Morris, Columbia University), Reading Lacan (Maire Jaanus, Barnard College), Queer Theory (Elizabeth Povinelli, Columbia University), Colloquium on Feminist Inquiry (Elizabeth Povinelli)                                                            

American Literature 1871-1945 (Margaret Vandenburg, Barnard College), Modernism (Margaret Vandenburg), Harlem Renaissance Literature (Monica Miller, Barnard College)                                  

Areas of Specialization: Food studies, Queer studies, Modernist literature

Awards & Honors:

Dean’s List, 2009-2010, 2010-2011, 2011-2012, 2012-2013

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa, November 2012

Schwimmer Prize for excellence in the Humanities, Barnard College (2013)

John Demos Prize for excellence in American Studies, Barnard College (2013)

Queer Studies Award for excellence in research and writing in the fields of queer studies, queer theory, and gender studies (awarded by the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University), Paper: “Nothing Pleases Me Except Dinner: Eating Sex and Queering Eating in Gertrude Stein’s Lifting Belly”

Professional Activities:

Research Assistant to Kim Hall, Professor of English and Africana Studies, Lucyle Hook Chair, Barnard College (Summer 2013)

Research Assistant to Margaret Vandenburg, Senior Lecturer in English and Director of the First-Year English Program, Barnard College (Spring 2013)

Research Assistant to Jennie Kassanoff, Professor of English and Director of the American Studies Program, Barnard College (Spring, Summer, Fall 2012)

Conference Papers:

“Edible Writing, Queer Eating,” 22nd Annual Women & Society Conference, Marist College (October 25-26, 2013)

survival. (filter on screenshot…lol)

survival. (filter on screenshot…lol)

( ), or by the way / after-thoughts

rhetorical question: what do you do when you can’t stand to read a word of what you’ve written?

(and you have to write a conference talk, a personal statement, a bit of coffee-shop-composition-book-prose-poetry)

somewhere a desire to read books again; but the inability to hold one for too long

is this what causes silence?

(not the absence of verbs)

should I get a tattoo of parentheses? how about a semicolon?

(no time to lament the lack of attention-paying, whatever it is that Lauren Berlant has called “the emotional time of being-with”)

what do you do when pleasure and displeasure, affection and dislike begin to feel the same? (or maybe you can no longer feel them)

I have doubts concerning my ability to produce “interpretations,” “readings,” “encounters”

the truth is: writers write

(last hope: Dylan called himself a farmer)

cultural critics make critiques, observations, insights, theories

they are the type that talk to you about shit; they know (they decide) what’s going on

they tell us about our feelings, our insides (or are they really creating a world; description as creation; no our until they write it)

the appeal of academia: it’s a bunch of people committed to envisioning & writing & thereby creating (not in any physical, literal, “actual” sense) an alternate world, a world of ideas; it’s a place where ideas can stand in for a world, can count as a world (think of the jarred dreams in Roald Dahl’s The BFG or Mrs. Dalloway’s mist of memories, a grasp at immortality; think of something intangible, something that affects you, something you can visualize in a daydream or a pencil-sketch, a sentence you have to leave the bed to record)

rhetorical question: what do you do when you can’t even make time to read the newspaper?

(or floss)

I wonder if I am a part of something

(anything: a generation; a culture; a nation; a political entity; a family; a social network)

I admit: if I don’t go to grad school, I have no idea what I’d do

I admit: my head feels empty of knowledge

(my eighth grade history teacher used to say, “I know stuff,” because he did; I couldn’t say that now without feeling untrue)

I admit: the fun & frivolous in-between times carry with them a sense of distraction like an eyelash in your eye, a non-awareness (of the self, of change over time—not just a season’s end but shifting faces & thickening thighs & dirty floors & maybe-dreams & the ability to feel in-bodied, at home, aware)

and so, fragments:

“used to”

(has it come to that?)

step one: slow down

step two: come back into the body (loose) —the body immersed in something strange; cold air is a metaphor

step three: wake up

step four: pay attention

(is it already over?)

step seven: revel in the imprecision, the absolute openness of words like “it” and “you”

you is me (I’m talking to myself)

mouth the words to “I Want You” (so bad)

I could be thinking what you’re thinking

(if I knew)

does it have anything to do with me, I wonder

So I have this blog. It’s not so much “about” me as it is of me. I write things, not for “you” or anyone, really (that includes myself), but for the sake of writing them. If what I write feels compelling; if it sparks something; if it makes a reader pause or yawn or smile or grimace or blush or shrug in total non-understanding—then I have done something worthwhile. I mean to say precisely what I write. This is not the same as knowing what my writing means. (For an aspiring academic, this is a problem. I choose my words carefully, but my goal is not necessarily & automatically to assure my reader’s comfort & comprehension. When asked to explain myself, to put it another way, to summarize or simplify or translate, I resist; I come up silent. Is this a problem? The reader is not dead. Neither is the text. A sentence is like a hand or a tree; who am I to read the lines & creases, to piece together a history out of rings?)

Do you have an answer to this question: what’s the point? (Not yet, I imagine, not yet.)

the phrase “can of worms” comes to mind

a backwards )

the likelihood that it was an accident

(unable to focus; it’s a physiological problem; I’m talking about my body, specifically my eyes; but this assumes that body & mind or feeling & feelings, for example, are in some way distinct; we prize our in/ability to disentangle: hair, limbs, gender, the darks & the lights; to distinguish between love & not-love, good fats & bad fats, authenticity & artifice. 

it wasn’t a tangent

The point is not knowing. You, reader, do not know me (okay, some of you do). This is not a blog about me.

If you were inside my head you’d know that I have not been thinking about graduate school (this is my future). I have not been reading academic books (this is my pastime). I have not been revisiting my thesis in preparation for the talk I am scheduled to give in less than two months (this is my craft). I tell myself that I am “off track.” I reason that a full time job & late nights & new friends are no reason to stop reading the diary of Virginia Woolf. But I wonder if the books I love (the ideas that give color to my cheeks the way an 8-mile bike ride does; the phrases that envelop me & blur the rest of the world, even if the world is just my closed-door room containing desk & bed & laptop & lamp, as if the world was some dumb picture in my instagram feed; feed me not with pictures or posts or illusions on a screen but with a warm body; please & thank you) I wonder if the books I love are just as, well, about nothing as this blog. 

(I am always half-joking; remember, everything is en/tangled.)

I know/no

I know/no

It always happens. The excitement, the dizziness, the rush of abandon. And then, the questions. Doubts. A blog post that feels ridiculous in hindsight (or hind-feeling; ha). A tired not-quite-conscious morning when I get the feeling (from where? and how?) that everything I do—that none of it will make a life. Or something. School is not life. A job is not life. A girlfriend is not life. A room of one’s own is not life. What else?

(has anybody learned something?)     

the word distraction comes to mind

wandering eyes

mirror on the floor

& the record player has been silent for a while

I wonder: have I said something in the midst of all that noise?