The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves

According to a post at Scientific American, people who have experienced loss or trauma may find healing if they are able to turn their life stories into a narrative that hangs together and makes sense. Recent research suggests that developing a story from the events in one’s life — not necessarily a story with a happy ending, just a true and “coherent story,” as opposed to a “fragmented” one — can bring real relief from depression and anxiety. — from The Book Bench @ The New Yorker

This confirms for me something I’ve instinctively puzzled around my entire life. A variation on “Everything happens for a reason,” that glib band-aid, but it’s a variation that’s more insightful and requires one’s thoughtful participation. And what it’s saying is not that we all hunger for “closure,” that old myth, but that if we can find a narrative, a way of threading together the events of our lives,  kind of like ordering a jumbled collection of short stories into a novel-in-stories, we can come to some sort of understanding, a measure of solace.

The stories we tell ourselves become The Story.

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Too True

The 4 truths and one lie about myself, with the lie revealed:

  1. My tenth grade teacher called me the Emily Dickinson of our class. When I showed him my next poem, he took a friend aside to inquire about my mental health. I laughed. “Poetic license, dude!”  **TRUE. My first lesson that readers often confuse the speaker of the poem with the poet herself, that poetry occupies a middle ground between fiction & nonfiction that the average reader finds challenging to navigate.
  2. While working during the Thanksgiving weekend as the manager of a mall store in my early 20′s, I gave directions to one of my favorite soap opera stars. I didn’t act weirdly or ask for his autograph, just smiled big so he’d know I knew, see how cool I am?  **TRUE. My introduction to soap operas was my grandmother, who lived with us the last couple years of her life. The soap she never missed, which became the soap I never missed (until I moved away & stopped watching soaps) was “Another World,” and my favorite character was Cass Winthrop, a smart-ass lawyer played by Stephen Schnetzer. He apparently had family in the area that he was visiting for the holiday weekend, and they came to the mall. I can’t remember where I gave him directions to, but indeed I smiled a mile wide. I’m smiling now. I love that guy.
  3. I have a heart-shaped uterus. Is that TMI? **TRUE, due to a small septum.
  4. My twin brother was born 4 minutes before me. My mother didn’t know she was having twins until after he was born. “Whoops! Guess what…!”  **FALSE. I have a twin, and my mother didn’t know she was having twins until the first one was born, but the first twin born was ME.
  5. I haven’t written a new poem since December.  **TRUE, sadly enough. Between trips to my mum, AWP, and illness, nary a poem has been written. I’ll amend that soon. I hope.

There you have it. So the winner is Donna! And the runner-up, for her kind, if  misplaced, benefit of the doubt, is Victoria. Both of youse email me your snail mail addresses ( mgauthier DOT hunger AT gmail DOT com ) and I’ll send you something wonderful next week.

In the spirit with which it was given

Many thanks to Karen for the Memetastic Award (which I keep reading as the Metatastic Award, but nevermind) and the sweet and generous things she said about me and my blog. This is just the sort of thing I’m terrible at — I never met a chain letter I didn’t break, never confronted a set of rules I didn’t feel compelled to vary — but nominating 5 more bloggers is the easy part, though it’s not exactly easy to limit myself to 5. In no particular order:

  1. Emma Bolden: She writes really long posts on topics as divergent as poetry & pedagogy & play-doh, and includes such awesome visual aids as stick-figure chalkboard drawings and “pirate vs. ninja” — go, now.
  2. Carolee Sherwood: Her struggles for balance between art & family, rough drafts of poems, book reviews — Carolee is open about it all, a bright light showing the way.
  3. Jeannine Hall Gailey: Health challenges, various moves initiated by forementioned health challenges, employment travails, all while maintaining an active (& fruitful! new book due this summer!) creative life. Pluck, thy name is Jeannine. Where else can you go to get a shot of Buffy with your poetry?
  4. January Gill O’Neil: Poet mom of two, MassPoetry committee member, January took the question of how to market yourself as a poet from taboo to front & center. Her packed schedule shows she knows what she’s talking about!
  5. Amy Dryansky: Her blog’s title says it all: “Pokey  Mama — Poet. Mother. Worker. Member of the slow-parenting movement.” The out-of-order chronicles of how one poet birthed a book and babies, and what happened next. Among other things.

Some of my other favorite blogs have already been nominated elsewhere. Thanks to all of you for expanding my universe and providing endless hours of reading pleasure.

The next part of the requirements is for me to tell you 5 things about myself, only 1 of which is true. Instead I’ll tell you 4 truths and 1 lie. Which is the falsehood?:

  1. My tenth grade teacher called me the Emily Dickinson of our class. When I showed him my next poem, he took a friend aside to inquire about my mental health. I laughed. “Poetic license, dude!”
  2. While working during the Thanksgiving weekend as the manager of a mall store in my early 20’s, I gave directions to one of my favorite soap opera stars. I didn’t act weirdly or ask for his autograph, just smiled big so he’d know I knew, see how cool I am?
  3. I have a heart-shaped uterus. Is that TMI?
  4. My twin brother was born 4 minutes before me. My mother didn’t know she was having twins until after he was born. “Whoops! Guess what…!”
  5. I haven’t written a new poem since December.

I’ll tell you the One False Thing in a few days. To add even more fun: The first person who guesses which is the LIE in the comments gets a free somethingorother. So have at it. AMENDMENT: only one guess per reader, but every reader who guesses correctly will get a treat. Why be unnecessarily limiting?

For those I’ve nominated, in hopes you’ll have fun with this: The rules: 1. link back to the blogger who awarded you. 2. Display the graphic from the award creator. 3. Post five facts, four of which must be lies and 4. Pass the award to five other bloggers who should follow these rules.

Small Presses & “The Count”

I speculated that independents—more iconoclastic, publishing more work in translation, and perhaps less focused on the bottom line—would turn out to be more equitable than the big commercial houses. Boy, was I wrong. Granted, these presses publish a smaller number of books in total, so a difference in one or two books has a larger effect on their percentages. Still, their numbers are dismaying. Graywolf, with 25 percent female authors, was our highest-scoring independent. The cutting-edge Brooklyn publisher Melville House came in at 20 percent. The doggedly leftist house Verso was second-to-last at 11 percent. Our lowest scorer? It pains me to say it, because Dalkey Archive Press publishes some great books that are ignored by the mainstream houses. But it would be nice if more than 10 percent of them were by women. (In the 2011 edition of Dalkey’s much-lauded Best European Fiction series, edited by Aleksandar Hemon, 30 percent of the stories are by women. Last year, at least Zadie Smith wrote the preface.)

–from “A Literary Glass Ceiling?” by Ruth Franklin, The New Republic

A quick glance at the Tupelo Press catalogue reveals that our stable of authors includes 75 authors: 32 men, 43 women. Of the 90 titles, 37 were by men, 53 by women.  Without “making a fetish” of it (Peter Stothard, editor of the Times Literary Supplement), Tupelo has upended what appears to be the industry standard.

All good things come to an end.

I ended up spending most of my time at the Tupelo tables, which was an excellent anchor and fun fun fun, but I’m happy that the panels I attended were comprised of poetry readings. My favorites among the poets I saw: Claudia Emerson, Kate Daniels, Sidney Wade, Keetje Kuipers, Ross Gay, Paisley Rekdal, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and all the other Tupelo poets. I’m too tired to link.

Friends I saw/spent time with, and new friends I made: Sandy Longhorn, Rhett & Jeff Trull, the fabulous duo behind NewPages, Denise & Casey Hill, Nicelle Davis, Lori May, Martha Silano, Kelli Russell Agodon, Bernadette Geyer, the dynamic Adam Deutsch of Cooper Dillon, Mary Biddinger, Jennifer Jean, January Gill O’Neil… there’s more, I know there’s more, but the thing is that now I’m sick as all get-out, and my mind’s not right. I’m going to eat breakfast, check out, catch a taxi to the train station, and attempt to read & relax for the next 7 hours.

To my everlasting regret, I didn’t take many pictures, but I have this one, of Sandy & me. It was a big delight to meet face to face and talk, but we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time together. The same could be said of all the names above.

It was a terrific time. While I’ve been gone, Lance has been dealing with water pouring from our ceiling due to all the snow & ice dams on the roof of our building. He actually had to move everything out of my office. Poor dear. Going home…

The Lovely Marriott Wardman Park

I had a movie moment at 7:07 this morning, running to catch my train that was due to depart at 7:10 am. We New Englanders are accustomed to driving in the snow, but even so, it took a loooong time to drive a not-that-far distance… I’ll leave it at that, we’ve all got our traveling scars this year! I did catch my train, and I made it to DC, and my lovely lovely hotel room. With any luck, I’ll post more pictures tomorrow. Let the wild rumpus begin!