Lexicon of a Feminist MFA Grad

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

About to age out of a low-residency MFA creative writing program—you know, one of those online deals where you and the professors spend all day in your bathrobes tied to your computers, drinking dusty Jack Daniels—I’ve one last obligation: the dreaded graduate lecture.

Now, before Father dropped dead by the fishpond, his sesquipedalian tendency rubbed off on my siblings and me, and my professors occasionally called me on my resultant use of big, arcane words. But hey, it’s a grad program. Look them up! Besides, my lecture is gender studies-based, and it’s a lot easier to use the words that best describe such things.

On the other hand, I’m a little worried my profs are right. So, I’ve compromised by creating a handout for lecture-goers, a handy lexicon with nice illustrative examples. I had some fun with it, too, so I figured I’d share, although maybe that’s just my self-absorbed nature. Anyway, here it is. I hope it’s useful.

Hegemony: a society’s dominant culture and its ideology.

In the USA, that’s white, patriarchal, Christian, heterosexual ideology. For example, take a look at the demographics of the U.S. Congress: 81 percent male, 82 percent white, 92 percent Christian and 97 percent heterosexual, although members of Congress have tended to postpone coming out until after they leave office. Happily, this is changing.

Hegemonic lens: the point of view of the dominant ideology.

2014PulitzerPrizeCmteThis point of view can blind the viewer to hegemonic representations (see below). In the realm of literature, Donna Tartt provides a nice example. The significant majority of people of color in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch are undeveloped characters restricted to the serving class.

Author Joy Castro wrote in her review of the novel for Salon: “Almost all the characters of color are servants, and they play bit parts. … Her servant characters don’t quite say, ‘You is kind. You is smart. You is important,’ as in The Help, but they come close.”

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Board apparently failed to make note of this—perhaps a function of its being 74 percent white folks. Perhaps Ms. Tartt was similarly blinded, being of white Mississippi stock.

Hegemonic representation: a portrayal of someone or something that reflects hegemonic ideology.

Of course, white folks don’t expect to be pulled over for driving while white, have their purses searched in department stores or be killed by a police officer for peddling cigarettes, but when it happens to someone of color, white folks tend to assume that person is indeed a criminal because people of color are so often represented as such in popular media, news and propaganda (think Willie Horton, a classic). Folks of color tend to know it’s institutionalized racism perpetuated by hegemonic representations.

Enculturate: to imbue an individual with the traditional content of a culture, its ideology, practices and values.

Although a decided embarrassment, I admit to having been effectively enculturated by U.S. hegemony: When I hear the term “member of Congress,” I tend to think of a male, despite being a feminist and having a degree in Women’s Studies. Of course, if the member of Congress says something asinine about women, which so many of them do, I feel fairly confident the speaker is a male—or former Rep. Michele Bachmann—and there are those annoying demographics (see ‘Hegemony,’ above).

Socially constructed gender roles: prescribed roles and their relevant, ideal behaviors, defined by society and based on the binary of male or female.

A local example, the transgender student at Fallbrook High School who committed suicide a couple months ago did so, in part, because she felt overwhelmed by society’s failure to embrace her non-binary gender identity.

JDSocial location: the socio-cultural group to which an individual belongs and that lends the individual identity.

Hmm, I’m a Southern California low-residency MFA grad, which means I’m likely to be privileged, white, straight, creative, substance-abusing, cerebral, depressive and self-absorbed.

Close, but no cigar.

Love,
K-B

…………………………

About Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Spawned by a Southern Baptist creationist and a liberal social worker, I inherited the requisite sense of humor to survive family dinner-table debates and the imagination to avoid them.

As the Sunday political columnist at the San Diego North County Times, I won awards, a Pulitzer Prize submission, a fan club, and death threats from angry readers—but the sales department loved me. More recently, I wrote book reviews for the paper, which is no longer: The U-T ate it.

In the last few years, the San Diego Poetry Annual has published some of my late-night poetry, and my creative nonfiction has been published by Trivia: Voices of Feminism and Ms. Magazine blog among others.

Today, the pocket gophers and hummingbirds keep me company while I write—yippee!

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Writers Read at Fallbrook Library Presents

Author Wendy C. Ortiz

Discussing

Hollywood Notebook
 & Excavation: A Memoir

 

Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose

Date: Tuesday, June 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650

WendyCOrtiz

Wendy with her new release, Hollywood Notebook


Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books) and Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press). Wendy wrote the year-long, monthly column “On the Trail of Mary Jane,” about medical marijuana dispensary culture in Southern California, for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, and PANK, among other places.

excavation coverShe has twice been a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook, a rural writing retreat for women writers. She is co-founder, curator and host of the long-running Rhapsodomancy Reading Series. Wendy is a mother and a marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles.

She is also an adjunct faculty in creative writing and has also facilitated creative writing workshops with Los Angeles youth in juvenile detention facilities. While living in Olympia, Washington, she was a mudwrestler, library worker and editor and publisher of 4th Street, a handbound literary journal.

Wendy’s books will be available for sale and signing.

For more information about Writers Read, contact K-B Gressitt at kbgressitt@gmail.com or 760-522-1064.

Photo credit: Meiko Takechi Arquillos.

Finding My Way

By Conney D. Williams

AlienFemalethe women in los angeles
must be taking classes, en masse
training at a secret location
they are taking injections of botox
laced with a desensitizing agent
their makeup is a façade
used to infiltrate the new age man
they are upsetting
the balance of world power
recalibrating patriarchal structure
that has given peace of mind
to men for centuries
when did roles began to reverse
my intuition says it coincided
with the shift in global warming
the synchronicity of their vocabulary
belies any randomness of this sample
the cogency of my tautalogy
has an error factor of minus zero
when did women began saying,
“It’s not your fault, it’s mine,” and
“I’m not looking for a commitment right now,”
and, “Yeah, I promise I will call you”
these phrases and others like them
have been the domain and exit strategy
of men, since before I can remember
is there a resistance movement
are there any underground LA women
who are buying Beyonce’s latest cd
laced with the subliminal lyrics
“I will date and marry a guy
who is not traditionally handsome
and makes less money than I,
even though I am ridiculously rich,
incomparably  beautiful
with a body deliciously attractive”
but these women in los angeles
must be taking classes, en masse
training at a secret location
to reverse roles of relationship
tell me why are so many of us men
getting dumped this close to Christmas
there’s a feminine chill cruising
through the Los Angeles ether
malls are packed with sensitive men
who carry their own bags
doing daily guilt shopping
indiscriminately buying things they don’t need
they are eating in groups of five or more
at places like the Olive Garden
these  women are upsetting
the balance of world power
recalibrating patriarchal structure
they devour more than nurture
they have become impermeable
with ceramic hearts and latex skin
they need distance
in order to hear themselves
but today I am ready to admit
that I am hurt and disappointed
and even though I know
there is no real conspiracy
this silence inside my head
and soft ache at the edge of my arms
certainly makes it feel that there is
every date doesn’t end with a kiss
all relationships aren’t destined for marriage
and it sucks that the cold of winter
coincides with breakups
then she calls me out of the blue
and for no reason other than
she really does care about me
just to share a laugh
because that’s what former lovers do
I tell her I am writing again
and finally realize that the living room sofa
is no place to do remembering
we make promises to catch up soon
that will probably never materialize
because that’s what former lovers do
and it’s only been a month since it ended
and only two weeks since we talked
I am feeling more comfortable
with the fact she’s no longer in my life
and even though I know
there is no real conspiracy
I will continue to walk around as Mulder
believing there alien women
living and dating in Los Angeles

…………………………………………..

About Conney D. Williams

ConneyConney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality.

Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His newest collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012.

Conney has performed his poetry on television, radio, galleries, universities, grade schools, coffeehouses, and stages around Southern California and across the country, including the Black Arts Festival. He is a talented public speaker with more than thirty years of experience.

Read more about Conney at conneywilliams.com.

Photo credit: J.D. Hancock via a Creative Commons license.

 

The Guides

By Penny Perry

           for my son, Danny

SacagaweaThe summer I walked
the edge of Lake Sacagawea
you hummed inside of me.
Unwed, I was part mama tiger
with a machete,
part little-girl-lost
attacked by wolves.

My two aunts,
women in their fifties then,
took us in.
Fluttering Hazel,
a white witch, brewed herbal tea,
and poured faithful mugs of Postum.

Kay hitched her Daddy’s pants
over her widening hips.
With her singing hammer,
she plumbed and patched the family home.
Cigarette dangling, sipping whiskey,
she told me, “Any family member
in trouble has a home here.”

Kay and Hazel hauled rocks
from the Toutle River,
scattered stones
through thick reeds,
and carved a path
to the warm house
for you and me.

…………………………….

About Penny Perry

PennyPerryKateHardingMugPenny Perry is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Lilith, Redbook, Earth’s Daughter, the Paterson Literary Review and the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Her first collection of poems, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage (Garden Oak Press, 2012) earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Sacagawea photo credit: Adam Pomerinke via a Creative Commons license.

This I Believe: Created in God’s Image

By Damian Torres-Botello, SJ

Herradura graveIn a five-part series released the week of March 16th from the National Catholic Reporter, God’s Community in the Castro, a parishioner from San Francisco’s Most Holy Redeemer parish had this to say about his spiritual home: “We don’t see ourselves as a gay community, but rather as a community that’s open to gays. … It’s an acceptance and a realization that people feel OK to be who they are that makes this place different.”

For many LGBTQ men and women, The Castro District of San Francisco has been their home where life can be lived with dignity. As NCR reporter Thomas C. Fox points out in this series, Most Holy Redeemer has been the spiritual center for LGBTQ Catholics living in and around this neighborhood. Much of its current history started in the 1980s when AIDS was taking so many lives. Since then this parish has been the sanctuary for an often neglected and shunned community.

As Catholics, we have a sense of the Church being a truly universal home, a place where all are welcome, as the name Catholic would indicate. Yet within that sense of universality there are many who feel the Church is not a welcoming home for them. Teachers have been terminated from jobs, children with disabilities have been refused sacraments, and many divorced men and women continue to feel unwanted. You don’t have to look hard to find similar stories from African-American CatholicsLatino Catholics, Catholic women, and former Catholics alike. And all of this tension has caused people to leave the church, and in some cases, lose their faith.

Yet here’s the truth I know and believe: I am created in God’s image and likeness, just as God creates us all. It is actually that simple. But sometimes we take that image and likeness and complicate it. That complication created concern for my loved ones as I discerned religious life in 2011 at the age of 33. Some were troubled that I’d find difficulty as a man of color in an ostensibly all-white male order. Others feared I would be forced into the closet after seventeen years of accepting myself as gay. A few friends expressed worry I would not encounter common ground in an order filled with the privileged when I only knew disadvantage. All of their observations and concerns were valid because they not only came from a place of love but through their own experiences as Catholics.

I am more than my skin color, my sexual orientation, and my economic class. It restricts God’s image and likeness if I only see myself as those three aspects. Defining myself purely on what I am limits who I am and how I can be of service. Even allowing these characteristics to dictate my life would prevent me from engaging the world as a wholly integrated human being. Besides, I prayed, and discerned, and made a choice. I made a commitment to live the vows of consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience because of my belief in Christ, the mission of the Church, and the people of God. I share my struggles openly just as I share my joys. Like my parents did with each other, transparency helps me live my vows honestly so that I am always available to live out my calling as a Jesuit.

That’s the truth that sits within each of us: God made us all in his image and likeness. St. Francis De Sales said, “Be who you are and be that well.” To embrace all that we are—and to embrace each other with that love—is to embrace that image and likeness; it is to embrace God. Thirty-six years of life and my short time as a Jesuit have confirmed that truth. And so I pray as a Church that we discover tender compassion for each other to love the God that dwells in us all.

…………………………………

About Damian Torres-Botello, SJ

After doing time in Leavenworth—at University of Saint Mary, that is—Damian became a theatre artist in his hometown of Kansas City (the Missouri side) and Chicago—mostly playwriting, but dabbling in acting and directing as well. Between belting showtunes in the shower, contributing his writing to a few periodicals here and there, and managing his own theatre company, he learned to pay his bills by becoming the best administrative assistant, office manager, and events planner ever! Damian entered the Society of Jesus in August of 2012. He currently plays the role of “philosophy student” at Loyola University Chicago and participates in writing workshops at Chicago Dramatists and Second City, but mostly he loses academic battles against every philosopher known to man.

Originally published by The Jesuit Post; re-published with permission of the author.

Herradura, Cuba grave photo by K-B Gressitt.

Juanita Gets a New Tattoo

A Short Story by
Dan McClenaghan

Clete always told Juanita that she shouldn’t drive with Ginger sitting on her lap.

Juanita always answered him with: “So, what am I supposed to do, get her a car seat?”

Somewhere, somebody has invented a car seat for a Chihuahua, Clete thought, so he said, “Yeah, I think you should.”

DogSeat

Get your canine seating enhancement mechanism today

Juanita checked Amazon. There were several varieties of pet safety/booster seats available. She chose the cheapest one: $18.95 plus tax, shipping and handling. It arrived five days later, but it wouldn’t fit in Clete and Juanita’s mailbox, so the mail lady left a note that they could pick up their package at the post office.

On Ginger’s last untethered ride, to pick up the safety seat, with Clete riding shotgun, Juanita—slowing to under five miles per hour for the red light—rear-ended a Lexus at the corner of Loma Alta Boulevard and College Avenue, causing her airbag to go off. This blasted Ginger from Juanita’s lap into her abdomen, and it caused the lady driving the Lexus to exit her barely damaged vehicle, limp over to the grass on the curb strip in front of the Starbucks, lie down, and cry the blues about a surely fictitious back injury, Clete figured.

He jumped out from behind his own airbag, strode down the curb strip and ordered the Lexus lady to get her faking ass up off the grass or he’d kick her.

She moaned louder and demanded an ambulance, as the coffee drinkers poured out of the Starbucks like ants, cell phone cameras rolling, just in time to catch Clete kicking not the Lexus lady but instead, in frustration, one of the curb strip sprinkler heads, knocking it free and inciting a geyser that soaked the Lexus lady in short order and had her up and cursing at Clete, as her own dog, who had ridden, as did Ginger, on her mistress’s lap—and who hadn’t suffered from airbag trauma—went snapping after that vertical flow with her little terrier jaws, too dim to realize that it wasn’t a solid object she was trying to bite.

Ginger, staggering out from under the airbag and off Juanita’s lap, hopped onto the sidewalk, focused on the water-attacking terrier and thought to herself: “My God, what a stupid little dog.”

Juanita, still behind the wheel, pushed the deflated bag aside and pulled her blouse up to reveal on the smooth skin of her belly the imprint of Ginger, head thrown back, teeth bared, like a highly-detailed fossil imprinted in her flesh, a tattoo-like tracing of some small, spindly, needle-fanged dinosaur.

I wonder if I can get this inked in? Juanita thought, as Clete grappled on the grass with the Lexus lady and the cell phone folks filmed the tussle, providing proof that there was nothing wrong with that woman’s back.

…………………………………..
About Dan McClenaghan

DanMcClenaghanMugI write stuff.

I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!

Photo credit: Chris Forsyth via a Creative Commons License.

Writers Read at Fallbrook Library Presents

May 12, 2015

Emerging Author Beth Newcomer

Discussing

The Art of the Short Story


Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose

BethHeadshot_2_031715Date: Tuesday, May 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650

Beth Escott Newcomer is a Pushcart-prize nominee for her short story “Tightrope,” published in The Sand Hill Review in 2013. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in many literary publications, including The Alembic, Stickman ReviewThe Tulane Review and Diverse Voices Quarterly, which published her story “All She Wanted,” a Best of the Net nominee in 2013.

Beth grew up on Normal Avenue in Normal, Illinois, but now lives in Fallbrook, California. To support her writing habit, she manages the Southern California-based graphic design firm she founded and helps promote her family’s cacti and succulent nursery. Two little white dogs follow her everywhere she goes.

Beth’s short story monographs will be available for sale and signing, for $5 each.

For more information, contact K-B Gressitt at kbgressitt@gmail.com or 760-522-1064.

War Hands

By Karla Cordero

 

GazaUnderFirebeneath
finger nails
a seagull’s moan—
warships fight
beneath
a burning home,
a child’s cry
smolder
beneath
ash & teeth
a warship’s
prayer—
men with
childhood
eyes—
a home,
a child,
lost—
beneath
finger
nails
fight
wars from
childhood’s
eyes

…………………….
About Karla Cordero

KarlaCorderoBorn in the border town of Calexico, California, I started my new life in San Diego, where the weather spoils the living. I’m currently an MFA candidate at San Diego State University and the 2015 recipient of the Loft Literary Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship. I’m the editor of Spit Journal, a review dedicated to poetry and social justice.

My poetry is published or forthcoming in Word Riot, Words Dance Publishing, The Acentos Review, Gutters and Alleyways Anthology and elsewhere. My first chapbook, Grasshoppers Before Gods, will be published in 2015 by Dancing Girl Press. You can follow my passion for performance poetry at Spit Journal.

Artwork credit: Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Artwork by Gaza Children.