BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
These are interviews, articles, and pieces of literature that I've read in the past month. You should too:
Interview with Li Young Lee at LA Review of Books:
"The mind of God. I think poetry is the mind of God. All the great poems that I love seem to me to all have that little ingredient. You feel like you’re in the presence of the mind of God. You can’t even account for the level of wisdom in certain poems. Take Rilke, I mean, you can’t just live and come to the conclusions he came to. I think his mission was to learn to get out of the way so that something bigger could speak through him.
Emily Dickinson, my God, she’s full of the mind of God. You can just feel God shining through those poems, darkly. So it was her, but it wasn’t. It’s unaccountable. In other words, if you wanted to be Emily Dickinson you couldn’t just have been born on the East coast, done the things she did. That wouldn’t guarantee that you could write anything. There’s something unaccountable that happened to her. And it’s that unaccountable thing that I love."
A married woman's account on sex post-sexual assault and marriage in Elle:
"I hadn't been in a serious relationship until I met my now husband. Before my husband, I always felt like I needed to have sex with people because I wanted them to need me or like me, and this was the first time I'd been with someone where it felt safe enough to decide whether or not to have sex. My brain went to the extreme with it, and once I said no, I couldn't stop saying no.
So there was a long period where we just weren't having sexual contact. At first there was foreplay, but that slowly tapered off. I wanted cuddling and kissing and affection, but I was always worried that he would then think it meant we needed to do more. On his end it was confusing and frustrating to have this level of physical intimacy stop abruptly."
What would your obituary read like? Beth Kalb writes her own in The New Yorker:
"Bess Kalb, twenty-eight, died immediately upon entering Burning Man with her new boyfriend, Travis or Trevor. There were no remains."
What does it actually mean when your employer advocates self-care? Is it just an easy way for them not to give you proper benefits? Miri at The Orbit weighs in:
"That’s where employers come in. When you don’t have enough money or time off work to do self-care, all the books and cats in the world aren’t going to get the job done. And that is especially true for all the folks out there whose work situations are considerably more stressful and unfair than mine, who have to work on-call, who get no paid time off at all, who can get fired just for staying home sick, who do have to take their work home with them, who don’t get health insurance, who are raising kids and supporting parents or partners, who are paid garbage salaries, who work six or seven days a week plus holidays, who haven’t taken a vacation in years or ever, who work nights, who work multiple jobs, who work in dehumanizing conditions rife with sexual harassment, racism, and other oppressions."
"Letter To A Cockroach, Now Dead And Mixed Into A Bar Of Chocolate," a poem by Matthew Olzmann at Kenyon Review:
"Today is Valentine’s Day. I walk to the store
to buy a box of chocolate for my wife.
As I walk, I have no idea whose hands
made the shoes that hug my feet,
or why the produce at the supermarket
glows like numbers on the stock exchange.
There is sweetness in this world,
but it has a price. You are the price."
Toni Morrison talks about race and why it's important to notice that we're not referred to as citizens but taxpayers in The Guardian:
"The complexity of the so-called individual that’s been praised for decades in America somehow has narrowed itself to the ‘me’. When I was a young girl we were called citizens – American citizens. We were second-class citizens, but that was the word. In the 50s and 60s they started calling us consumers. So we did – consume. Now they don’t use those words any more – it’s the American taxpayer and those are different attitudes.”
Bud Smith's story "Franklin" in Fun House Magazine:
"Another time my brother came home soaked in diesel fuel. He’d held his nose and jumped off the hood of a dump truck, landing into an open 55 gallon drum of it behind the municipal garage. Lit match in hand.
This was that phase when he insisted I call him Human Torch, not Franklin, not Frankie, not Frank.
He didn’t want to get in trouble. And I didn’t want him to get in trouble either. So when he came to my window, reeking, I went out and helped him burn his clothes behind the trailer park, right there at the edge of the aqueduct where the coyotes howl."
Marilyn Monroe wrote a letter while she was hospitalized for mental health issues, and it's heartbreaking. From Refinery 29:
"He told me I was a very, very sick girl and had been a very, very sick girl for many years," she wrote. "He asked me how I could possibly work when I was depressed. He wondered if that interfered with my work. He was being very firm and definite in the way he said it. He actually stated it more than he questioned me so I replied: 'Didn't he think that perhaps Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin perhaps and perhaps Ingrid Bergman they had been depressed when they worked sometimes but I said it's like saying a ball player like DiMaggio [her second husband] if he could hit ball when he was depressed. Pretty silly.'"
#StarringJohnCho highlights Hollywood's 'whitewashing' via BBC:
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She has lead workshops at Brooklyn Poets.