Archive for October, 2012

October Poetry Pick: Final Girl

Autumn is in the air.  So is Halloween.  My neighbors’ lawns are full of ghosts, goblins and zombies.  At school, my colleagues talk about the drama at home: what their children will be wearing for Halloween costumes.

As for me, I have been catching up on my horror movie watching.  Both AMC and the SyFy channels have been running horror movies back to back, especially in the evening.  This past week, while grading papers, I’ve been watching movies from the Halloween franchise.

So, I admit it.  I love horror movies.  As a feminist, I know this relationship is problematic.  I also agree with Isabel Cristina Pinedo, who in her book, Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing, admits that being an avid horror fan and a feminist is an oxymoron.   Pinedo’s book is a complex one, and her views about the relationship between women and slasher/horror films are interesting.

It’s this relationship that Daphne Gottlieb explores in her book, Final Girl (Soft Skull Press, 2003). As the author notes in her introduction, this book is influenced by feminist film theory created by Carol Clover.  I am familiar with Clover’s work and her book, Men, Women and Chainsaws is a thoughtful critique of women’s roles in contemporary horror movies.  Clover coined the term, Final Girl defined loosely as the last girl who remains standing at the end of a slasher film — the girl who faces the killer.

In Final Girl, Gottlieb traces this image.  Indeed, the book has a refrain that addresses the predicament of the Final Girl in several poems.  For example, in “Final Girl II: The Frame” she warns the female character: “Don’t answer the phone./Don’t answer the door./Don’t do it. No — really. Don’t.”  Then, she offers these words of wisdom of survival: “Watch as everyone around you dies/Scream until your eyes work”  and “You will fight back. You will become a girl who is a boy.”

However, to say that Final Girl is simply about horror movies would be misleading.  Yes, pop culture horror icons such as zombies and slasher killers make appearances.  And in the poem, “Slut” we also get to hear the voice of  the first girl killed in slasher movie, the girl who explains, “I die first/in every horror movie/before the innocent boyfriend, the too/curious best friend/and the foolhardy pal.”   But more importantly, Gottlieb also explores the captivity narrative in American culture: Patty Hearst speaks as well as Mary Rowlandson.

Roger Corman, in one of the back cover blurbs, (and how cool is that — to have Roger Corman talk about poetry) says, “The slasher film, while perhaps deservedly underrated as a genre makes clear on thing about our society: we want certain things to survive.”   And this is what we see in Final Girl, a book of survivors.

So, there you have it!  Final Girl may be my October pick, but it’s also my Halloween pick! If you have read any poetry books that could fit into the Halloween category, I would love to hear about them!


Dabbling in Autumn

The first frost has come and gone.  I watch the forecast for snow, but the days have been warm and just a little wet from Autumn showers.  We have had snow in October, I have been telling myself.  But so far, there has been no sign. 

I’ve been reading some old posts, and I realize that most of the time I sound like an optimistic person — and I admit that the persona I place on my blog is pretty much true.  I try to be optimistic.  But lately, I have to admit, I haven’t been writing a whole lot, and I haven’t been optimistic about my writing.  No, this has nothing to do with rejections.  I get rejections.  I get acceptances.  That is part of the writing life I have learned to accept. It’s something else.

I used to get up every morning at around 5 am (sometimes, the cats let me sleep until 5:30!), make myself a cup of coffee, and sit down to the computer to write.  Then, of course, time would run out and I would have to get ready for work.  Still, I used to get a good hour’s worth of writing done.

However, this past month or so, I haven’t done a whole of writing.  The routine is the same.  I still get up early and drink coffee, but then I stare at the computer screen.  I write lines and then erase them.  I finish a poem and then realize that it sounds a lot like one that was published last year.  I love a poem one day and then the next, I read the same poem and hate it.  Sometimes, I have awful feelings that I have nothing left to say.

Then, I have the more baffling feelings.  Some of my poems seem to be telling me that they want to be short stories.  Now, when I was an undergraduate, I had dreams of becoming a great novelist, and I wrote short stories.  I still have those short stories I wrote when I was 21 or so.  They don’t make me run from the room screaming, but they certainly aren’t very good.  Still, in the past month or so, I’ve been thinking more about the short story, scribbling down ideas, wondering about the process of writing a short story.

I have been thinking about my history with poetry.  As long time readers of the Scrapper Poet know, I don’t have an MFA.  People often ask me if I am self taught.  I don’t really know what that means. I had undergraduate courses in creative writing and I take workshops.  Plus, I have friends and mentors who read my work and give advice.  I’m always grateful for their support.  Still, I think I have learned the most from reading.  I have always been an avid reader, and in many ways, I’m more of a reader than a writer. Reading has taught me how to write.

So, what else have I been doing in the last few weeks besides staring at a blank computer screen wondering about my poetry? Buying collections of short stories.  Reading short story collections.  Re-reading collections I have enjoyed in the past, such as Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage and Alex Taylor’s The Name of the Nearest River.  Right now, I’m finishing From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet by Patrick Michael Finn.  All of these collections explore the various aspects of the working-class world.  The authors’ works are gritty and raw. There’s ugliness and violence hidden in beautiful, lyrical language.  There’s resilience in the characters.  There’s familiarity in the settings.

It’s funny that I somehow tricked myself into believing that only poetry could capture the world I want to write about.

CFS: Working-Class Studies Conference

The 2013 Working-Class Studies Conference will be held in Madison, Wisconsin on June 12 – 15, 2013.  The call for submissions has just been posted on the WCSA’s homepage. The deadline for submissions is January 14, 2013.  I have been to this conference twice, and have come home energized and exhausted at the same time.  (Plus, I always have an armful of new books!)  It’s a wonderful multi-disciplinary conference.

In Time For the Weekend…

The debut issue of the museum of americana is live! Edited by Justin Hamm, this literary journal seeks to explore the intersection of American history and culture through art.  Take a look at the entire issue.  Yes, I have a poem included, but I’m also super excited to read “American Legion, 1964” by David Walsh, a “poet in training” as he calls himself. David and I met a few years ago at Chautauqua during a workshop by poet Todd Davis and we have been in touch ever since.  I’m very happy to see our work together at last.

Split this Rock 2013 Contest

Mark Doty will be the judge for the 2013 Split this Rock Poetry Contest.  The contest is open to poets who write “socially engaged” poems.  This theme has many interpretations.  For more details, please visit the website.  Submissions are welcome until November 1, 2012.

A Cold & Cold Mountain Review

For most of the weekend, thus far, I have been trying to recover from the worst cold I have had in over a year.  I would like to blame allergies, but my allergies don’t usually bother me in the fall.  Still, everyone around me has been sick (colleagues, students, Anthony), so I guess the sinus headache, sore throat, cough, general exhaustion, were all inevitable.

Still, I got some good news to break up the dreariness (and the fact that since I’ve been sick, I haven’t gotten anything accomplished).  I received a note in my inbox saying that Cold Mountain Review has accepted one of my poems!  Now, CMR is not a new literary journal, but it’s relatively new to me. I subscribed last year and fell in love with its contents as soon as I flipped through its pages.  Yes, I loved the poetry, but I also discovered the work of photographer, Jenn Ackerman, whose photo essay, “Out of the Mines” looks at America’s “poverty pocket” — the coal mines of Central Appalachia.  For more information about Ackerman and her work, take a look at her website.

100th Book!

Press 53 is celebrating the publication of its 100th book!  Take a look at their website to see the terrific sale they are running. For a limited time, choose any two short story collections or poetry books for $10, plus shipping and handling.  That’s $13 total!  (I have already placed my order.)

Three for the Fall

Many of us make summer reading lists, so why not make such reading lists for the Fall?  If you do, add these three titles that are on my reading list:

  1. O Holy Insurgency by Mary Biddinger
  2. Red Army Red by Jehanne Dubrow
  3. Notes from the Journey Westward by Joe Wilkins

I’ve preordered all three, and I can’t wait until they arrive at my doorstep!