“[I]ndie-heavy AWP is known for its vibe of [alienation], [lit capital] building, and opportunities to [creep on] [younger] poets.”
– New York Magazine via @kingertender2 on Twitter, brackets added
“Moderate your appetite so that with a little you may be content.”
– fortune cookie, Foo Chow Restaurant – Chinatown, Los Angeles, CA
“Every man, deep down, knows he’s a worthless piece of shit.”
– Valarie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto
“My eyes are their assholes.”
– Douglas Kearney, “Massachism,” Mess and Mess and
I have shit in more bathrooms these past several days than usual, all of them bathrooms I have never shit in before.
Tho I have at moments had the urge I have not masturbated in most of these bathrooms.
I have not masturbated in any of these bathrooms.
I have not masturbated at all these past several days though I have recently become much better at masturbating without looking at pornography than I have in many years, since I began looking at pornography before I even really masturbated self-consciously.
Not requiring looking at pornography to masturbate really multiplies the temporospatial possibilities for masturbation while at the same time reducing the feelings of fear and guilt and shame I have long associated with moments before and after.
I once heard or read that vulnerability to disgust-reactions and other associated feelings is radically reduced during sex; I have felt that reduction even during sex on my lonesome.
It is not that I think that masturbating while looking at pornography or not masturbating while looking at pornography make a huge difference in the extent to which I am complicit with imperial heteropatriarchy.
But I want my fantasies to be less hinged to imperial heteropatriarchy and more hinged to love, and love and imperial heteropatriarchy have a contradictory relationship with one another even though the power of imperial heteropatriarchy often subordinates the power of love to itself in such a way that they may not appear to have a contradictory relationship.
These lines make it seem as though I am more preoccupied with masturbation than I see myself as, though it is possible, perhaps even likely, that I have repressed consciousness of my actual degree of masturbation preoccupation.
This was supposed to be a poem about shitting.
This was supposed to be about shitting but because shitting and hygiene are so intimately associated by the conditions of their practice I have transitioned into writing about masturbation which from my perspective is only a slightly more perverse form of hygiene.
I am using the denotative sense of perversion according to which the perverse is simply that which turns away from normative sexual partial-objects and practices.
That construction implies I thought forward from shitting to hygiene to masturbation but really that is a construction ex post facto.
It was from shitting to bathrooms to masturbation that I thought because of the urges I have been driven towards while in, near, or thinking about bathrooms.
By hygiene I mean self-care but it is probably unfortunate to think of self-care in terms of hygiene.
Probably no more than half of things that care for selves are cleaning and the other half are filthying.
But it seems now obvious that cleaning and filthying relate dialectically and hygiene is merely a normalization that cares for the abnormalities of shit.
I have shit a good few times since Wednesday night when I left Oakland to arrive in Los Angeles.
Never since Wednesday night have I shat in the same toilet twice, as of yet.
I have been shitting into so many different toilets of varying cleanliness – until LAX I had never laid down one those toilet covering sheets – and wiping my ass with several different textures and brands of toilet paper, all so much less soft and absorbent than the toilet paper Chelsea and I buy to use at home.
Chelsea is Chelsea Carl aka Chelsea Charlea.
This last time shitting my ass bled.
As I revise this the aforementioned last time is no longer the last time.
It is hard to tell which proportions of texture of the paper, vigor of wiping, and what I have eaten have contributed to this bleeding.
Bleeding out an ass is a common experience.
I share it with you and I share it with the person in memory named me that I call myself.
But I share it especially with me since I have had so much of it and thought so much about it while talking relatively little with and hearing relatively little from others about it.
I have a chronic digestive disease called Crohn’s.
It is an inflammatory bowel disease; when colon, rectum and anus get really inflamed I bleed.
I have shat much blood in this life.
Mostly into toilets but sometimes, though rarely now, directly through my undergarments into my pants.
This happens rarely now ever since I have become for the most part vegan and gluten free, though I eat pizza with meat on it sometimes once a week – and even without having taken any medication since June 2014 before I moved from Providence to Oakland with Chelsea.
This decade long experience with abnormal shitting in part explains why when last night Arpine apologized for taking too much time in the bathroom before we left the LA Convention center to go to the Poetic Research Bureau in Chinatown I told her that I think it is important that no one ever feel like there is a timer on while they are in the bathroom.
Arpine is Arpine Akopyan, a comrade in my cohort in the MFA Program at Mills.
I do not mean to imply that Arpine was shitting nor do I mean to get you, dear reader, to think about that but it is too late and I’m sorry.
When there are enough toilets and sinks and mirrors and driers – enough bathrooms – to go around as there are at a place like this everyone should have all of the time that they need to do whatever they want.
Feeling timed while in the bathroom only enhances the degree of guilt and shame that many of us associate with the acts that happen in that room.
Sometimes I like to call the bathroom the restroom both because so few bathrooms have baths and because it is nice to think about those rooms as places of rest.
Also I like to call it that sometimes because it feels perverse in the way that all modesty and propriety are perverse, having denied themselves overt pleasure and thereby claiming covert pleasure for themselves.
I feel ashamed and guilty about how long I take in bathrooms often in part because I believe my chronic digestive disease to be triggered by the lifestyle my white bourgeois racial class has enabled me to live much of my life.
I believe that my chronic digestive disease is largely triggered by eating foods and absorbing other chemical compounds that cause inflammation in the body and that most of those foods and other chemical compounds are part of the ecosystems of white bourgeois people.
Ecosystems that our ways of living make others live in too when they live at all close to us.
The following are some sentences about demographics from the most recent version of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
“Although Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can occur at any age, people are more frequently diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35.”
“In general, IBD affects men and women equally.”
“However, most North American studies show that ulcerative colitis is more common in men than in women.”
“IBD is found mainly in developed countries, more commonly in urban areas, and more often in northern climates.”
“A higher proportion of Caucasians had a family history of IBD than African Americans or Asians.”
“Other research shows that people of various ethnic groups who have immigrated to the United States from countries with low incidences of ulcerative colitis have higher rates of developing the disease once living in this country.”
My various guilts and shames tend to feel connected through eco-social circumstance and I really think they are.
I often feel ashamed and guilty for how wordy I can be or for how word-withholding I can be in the bulimic dialectic of my language practice because I associate this with the gendered sexuality of my racial class.
As in, I know deep down I am a piece of shit.
I am a piece of shit dangling from the eco-social ass that gets stuck in the ass’s hairs and balled up with little bits of toilet paper that no amount of ass wiping practice can prevent from forming as long as the eco-social ass keeps dropping shits that don’t pass without catching.
I am not certain about using this word bulimic to describe my language practice but I read an article in The New Inquiry written by Emily Cooke called “The Semiautobiographers” in which the writer refers to Kate Zambreno’s use of this word on her blog to describe one of two polar tendencies among writers, the other being termed anorexic.
I am trying out calling my writing bulimic to see how it feels and to hear or read what you think about it.
It would probably be better for me to explore the metaphorics of shitting with regard to language practice since shitting is something I have thought about and done a lot and experienced so many variations of in so many times and places.
This was supposed to be a poem about hygiene.
“Cleanliness is overrated,” says Patricia when I tell her I haven’t showered since I’ve been here.
Patricia is Patricia Powell, a comrade in and co-chair of the English Department at Mills College, and is also my supervisor at The Place for Writers.
In one or all of those capacities she pitched me, back in the Fall, on going to AWP this year.
A pitch that Christina followed up on.
Christina is Christina Fisher, a comrade in and Graduate Programs Coordinator of the English Department at Mills.
I say to Patricia, “this might be too much information, but I don’t shower too often – once every three or four days.”
She tells me she thinks I’ve told her this before: “you said it like that, ‘this might be too much information, but….'”
I guess I talk about this a lot so I try to say something possibly new by adding, “I used to shower more regularly, then it got less regular – like every other day – then it got really irregular, like once a week, now it is slightly more regular.”
Patricia smiles and says, “stewing in your own juices,” to which I respond, “well they say that the body is a self-cleaning organism.
The background to this is that recent versions of Chelsea care more about hygiene than recent versions of me even though we got to know each other in what was most likely the least hygienic timespace of our lives.
We met through a food and housing cooperative in Providence, Rhode Island called Watermyn.
Chelsea has said to me that Watermyn was the most genuinely inclusive social timespace she has ever lived through.
It was for me too.
It was not just a timespace where folks of divergent gendered sexual racial classes, met to sleep and eat and drink and fuck and party and sing and perform poems and make art and do work and shit and shower and clean and cook and dirty, but also they lived there sometimes or all the time doing these things in a house with approximately sixteen other semi-permanent cooperators among whom Chelsea was one and approximately sixteen more dinner-time cooperators among whom I was one.
By the time we started having sex and hanging out more we were both among the approximately sixteen dinner-time cooperators.
Since exiting that timespace Chelsea and I have gotten far more intimate and gradually more hygienic though there have been all sorts of conflicts around this and our different wants and needs for self-care and cleanliness especially since we have lived together these nearly two years in Oakland.
While I’ve been down here we’ve been messaging each other texts including sentences like these:
“what you up to?”
“I been cleaning and rearranging the house for mini-qtpoc reading group tomorrow ((which might just Ed up being Edgar and me)) and under yr desk I found a bag WITH!: a meta spatula, fruity pastels, AND the thermos mug you thought you lost but turns out you just never used it”
“Wish I could get rid of yr big pink chair and replace it with a dining chair but iss coo”
“holy shit what a crucial find!
“inevitably i will lose one thermos mug.
“about the pink chair: just wait till i get back?”
and photos like these:
I am sitting, I was sat at the Mills College table at Association of Writers & Writing Programs bookfair on this day, that day – Saturday, April 2nd, 2016 – listening to the just recently leaked Frank Ocean.
I don’t remember whether this was the same sitting during which I captioned a quote of this tweet by Raina Leon @rainaleon, “#blackpoetsspeakout #awp16 our lives at stake.
“hear our voices. booth 1104. we are here. why aren’t you?”
My caption read, “i’m working a booth nearby but if I wasn’t I’d be with the crowd at #blackpoetsspeakout at #awp15 — smash #gringpo”
Regardless, this listening to the just recently leaked Frank Ocean to pass the timespace between making conversation with various strangers to gauge and solicit interest in applying to Mills for an MA in English or an MFA in Creative Writing – Poetry, Prose (Fiction or Creative Non-fiction) – or Book Art and Creative Writing or in Translation.
It was my job and other’s jobs to give away flash lights and bags with Mills College branding and whenever possible get people’s email addresses usually for three hours at day in hall where the bookfair way happening.
In exchange for doing so, Arpine, Nora, Phyllis, Shiloh, Van, and I received a reimbursement of $200 in travel costs as well as our conference registration covered.
Nora is Nora McKinnon, a comrade in my cohort in the MFA program at Mills.
Phyllis is Phyllis Oscar, a comrade in the MFA program at Mills, whom booked a one room airbnb that we shared for $45/night a 15 minute walk away from the Convention Center.
Shiloh is Shiloh Jines, a comrade in my cohort in the MFA program at Mills and a co-worker at The Place for Writers.
Van is Van Dellz, a comrade in the MFA program at Mills.
Jasmine also worked the table but since she is not a current student I don’t know if she received the same reimbursement, nor have I asked.
Jasmine is Jasmine Wade, a comrade that graduated last year from the MFA program at Mills.
$200 in travel is the maximum reimbursement the department gives for conference or research travel, an amount I have previously received from the department for conference travel thanks to Tonianne’s administrative work, .
Tonianne is Tonianne Nemeth, a comrade in and Executive Assistant of the English Department at Mills.
Tho it may have been another one of those April fools socially mediated jokes like the alleged but unreal new Fugazi and Outkast records the just recently leaked Frank Ocean may have also been a real leak, it sounded almost real enough but undoubtedly so different from his last recordings.
And as I was sitting, as I am sat at the Mills College table on this day, that day listening to this really or unreally leaked Frank Ocean album a person with long brown hair pulled back is walking around with a toilet paper dispenser hanging from some sort of apparatus around their neck.
Attached to this toilet paper dispenser is a wooden heart.
It makes me smile.
It makes me think of how much I love shitting.
It makes me think of how much I love shitting when there is no blood in my shit.
Blood in my shit makes me think of the violences of hygiene.
Of the social codes according to which these violences are organized, several of which I had listed here before the list felt so insufficient it had to be deleted.
After I took a shit I walked out of the bathroom and down the hallway where I saw Mai.
Mai is Mai Doan, a comrade in my cohort in the MFA program at Mills.
I saw that she was putting a copy of Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion in her bag and she told me she had got it free at the reading she had just been to.
She told me a number of things that I probably don’t remember correctly: that after the reading that she had spoken to Joshua Clover and they had gotten into a discussion about the boundary exclusions of poetry that gets called experimental, for example its whiteness; that this, for example, whiteness of experimentalism has a lineage that goes back to the division that happens after the 1960s between experimental poetry and identity (aka movement) poetry; that perhaps one partial way to get beyond this division between experimental and identity poetry is to stop using such terms.
I had just been to a panel on collaborative writing and maybe I told Mai this.
I was, would have been wondering if the collaborative piece Chelsea and I had submitted to the call for submissions on housework would be accepted; I did not yet know that it would not be.
We, Mai and I, agreed that the best panel we had yet gone to was the one from the previous day called “Necessary Hybridity.”
I quote from my notes, some of which may be direct quotes from Amarnath Ravva, Kazim Ali, Micha Cardenas, or Sesshu Foster:
“hybrids are most things – uniform genres are clones & hybrid forms are like grafts”
“fiction that writes w/ & from multiple voices”
“holding memories on top w/ each other”
“giving clues throughout th”
“on stolen land”
“how to be a settler & work for decolonization”
“continual hybridization; folding & juxtaposit”
“semi old fashioned like origami + cubist but digital methodology”
I must admit I got more out of going to the various panels than I had expected.
Later that day I would go to a panel featuring Will Alexander, giovanni singleton, Lauri Ramey, Harryette Mullen, and C.S. Giscombe called “Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in California” where the audience appeared to be disproportionately white – though perhaps not disproportionate to the conference as a whole – at which only people whom passed as white to my gaze from a distance were called upon to ask questions all of which were boring and provoked the least response from the panelists of any questions asked of any panel I saw the whole weekend.
The night before I had been to a couple readings at Poetic Research Bureau.
Between the first reading and second, after Arpine had left, I went to Foo Chow Restaurant, known for, among other things, its appearance in the film Rush Hour – a film I have seen many times.
Having been told this fact about the restaurant by Arpine I betrayed her and ate there on my own.
I don’t remember who walked in first, me or this person I took to be a black man.
I specify some of the social differentials I took to apply to this person because it is relevant to what comes next.
We walked in around the same time.
I was seated first.
This other person was seated near me.
My order was taken first.
I tried to make some sort of acknowledgement of this or really anything to the person seated near me but I don’t think any thing was communicated.
I was served first.
First tea, then vegetable fried rice, then garlic eggplant.
All before he, assuming this other person uses that pronoun, was served anything but tea.
Eventually this person I am calling he was served what looked like potstickers.
Then he was given his bill.
Long before I was given my bill.
He left before I was given my bill.
We were at the second reading at the Poetic Research Bureau together.
He had a spot leaning on the wall that I envied.
I was just standing.
He was from what I could see the only black person in the audience of at at least 30 and as many as 50 at that point in the night.
While at this reading and the one there before it two people I assumed to be Chinese in part because we were in Chinatown, that spoke to one another in a language I assumed to be Chinese, walked around and hung around and picked up the empty and semi-empty beer cans that we were leaving everywhere.
Weeks later – after reading a draft of this – Arpine texts me that one of the two people I assumed to be Chinese, the one that she assumed to be a woman, “was really into the poetry.”
The beer cans were cans of Tecate, the only Spanish proper noun pronounced remotely like what I understand to sound like correct by Matvei Yankelvich whom introduced Jen Hofer and her compañerxs, whom unfortunately were not named on any event billings and whose names I did not catch because I was too fixated on their having been likely incorrectly pronounced.
Matvei Yankelvich admittedly seemed to make a sincere attempt to repeat Jen Hofer’s compañeras’ names, which he had forgotten, like me, or perhaps not been told, as they were repeated to him on the spot.
Only by the second night of readings at Poetic Research Bureau, Saturday, April 2nd, which was also the same night as this whole pronunciation affair, did I grasp that perhaps the people collecting beer cans were not simply cleaning up after us but doing so in order to be able to exchange the cans for money.
That night I drank more beers than I had any other night.
More even than when on the first day of the conference Arpine had a whiskey and coke and I had a beer.
And then Arpine, Denise, Mai, Nora, Shiloh, and a friend of Denise’s, whom I don’t believe I was properly introduced to but whose name I forgot if I was, went to a bar called the Back Door after eating at a tacqueria.
Denise is Denise Benavides, a comrade that graduated last year from the MFA program at Mills.
There I had one beer.
Then later at the Mills reading that Arpine read at I had one beer before and one beer after and never the dirty martini that Nora and I were each supposed to have following Mai’s inspirational cocktail order.
And as I drank my last beer, sitting on the floor inside Poetic Research Bureau while people read poetry outside, hoping that the shit I felt coming on would come and come at a time when the line to the bathroom was short, not because I was worried about waiting but because someone in the bathroom line earlier had complained several times about people possibly shitting and thus holding up the line, I took these photos:
And this is a photo of the bathroom I never got to shit in though I wanted to:
And these are some of the last notes I took on my phone for this poem:
“finally, hearing that Phyllis will not return to our airbnb bedroom, I know, sitting on this poured concrete floor waiting for the shit-feel to come, deciding whether I should have another beer while I listen to these write red read, I know that I will masturbate tonight.”
“water, no water, room, garlic, echinaecea”
“longer & shit” collab poem by Asian appearing woman appearing person via 1913 that worked with a Hilary via interest in Alice notley on a collab book”
“robaldo [Ronaldo] a [V.] Wilson in a sea of white people”
“‘I would be there yesterdsy”
“’be there yes I will'”
“everybody here tonight”
“sings along to a natural woman”
“he says wombat”
“white people all laugh along”
“another black person shows up amid”
“speaks in whiter sounding voice to rap song”
“body site of labor, hate – cant.”
“remember what else”
I kept wondering what Wilson was thinking about while performing and what the scenes were like at the other readings my comrades were going to and thinking about the first panel I went to, the one where the whole audience agreed that writers need to organize and form collectives to better engage in class struggle against wage squashing and wage theft and for more time unwaged in which to write or do anything, the one where Rodrigo Toscano talked about the laboristics of different locations, activities and transposition of poetry production and performance and how only one, the academic, dominates representational circuits.
When later I email Toscano for a copy of the talk, I receive a copy and am told it appears in Viz. Inter-Arts: Interventions, edited by Roxanne Power.
Jen Fitzgerald, Alyss Dixson, and Ashaki Jackson were also on the panel.
I mention and was thinking about this whole Toscano thing since I am hesitant to believe as many others are hesitant to believe that it is simply aesthetic, literary or cultural divisions and aesthetic, literary or cultural phenomena that keep mainly white rooms white, though in this case the room was an alley.
I mention and was thinking about that whole panel, “From the Drudges: Sustaining a Writing Life from Outside of Academia,” because that was for me one of those moments where the social difference on the panel and in the audience and the tone and topic of discussion gave me hope that writers and poets may learn together to sever their connections to the reproduction of imperial heteropatriarchy.