Somehow, it is April. It’s been several months since my last update on here, which runs counter to my philosophy of just posting whatever.
Rather than endlessly repeat my theoretical approach to posting on this blog as an evasion of posting on this blog, I suppose a real update I can provide is that I had to go to the ER recently and underwent surgery, which I am recovering from. For the past (tw0?) week(s), I’ve been unable to even sit at my desk, so I’m far behind on work and life. I ended up having to miss my creative writing workshop/group twice in a row, which was profoundly depressing since I really value that space. For me, being a part of that workshop has really specified what a writing community can mean.
When people refer to the writing or literary “community,” they’re often describing the visible contours of literary twitter or booktok or the like–a loose collection of self-identifying readers and writers rebounding within a social media space. I think there’s something special to that kind of literary community–especially with poetry, generous readership is a prerequisite for any kind of meaningful engagement. There can be a sort of old-timey kindness to lit twitter–strangers sometimes encounter other strangers in sincere consideration.
In turn, generous reading often leads to generous engagement beyond the parameters of one’s visible work. If I’m going to make the time and space to read your poems, I will most likely make the time and space to listen to your little gripes and tiny joys. Of course there are limits, and no one is really operating under the impression of true intersubjective exchange, but getting to know one’s words almost invariably involves getting to know one’s life.
In that sense, I really do think that literary twitter or other social media communities deserve valorization as communities. I am quite bored of people attempting to disqualify social media as inauthentic in the face of their 15-year-old writing group or MFA cohort or what have you.
But there’s a special kind of engagement that we created with the writing workshop that, to me, feels like a uniquely vital space of engagement, as opposed to broader communities like lit twitter that are overwhelmingly white and vulnerable to all kinds of terrible people you need to tiptoe around. I don’t have to do that careful and tired dance of couching everything I say with preemptive defenses or appeals to the universalized reader–instead, we can attend to each other’s lives, as writers, humans, subjects under various systems, etc.
I think the guidelines we wrote did a pretty good job of providing a vibe check to the kind of space we are constructing, and I’m perpetually grateful to all the other attendees who make the space possible. I often think about the workshop as a little oasis for engagement and support that exists in difference to the logic of normative existence/survival, where the pressures of everyday life are not erased but taken into a space where they can be experienced differently, like sound traveling through water instead of air.
I suppose I am just sitting in appreciation of all kinds of communities, even those that are not apparent to their members (e.g. nonsovereign relations across borders, species, etc.).
That aside, here’s some other things that have felt like oases in my time of pain and exhaustion:
1. Amy Jannotti’s audio blog/podcast The Poet Girlfriend: Personally, podcasts are a hard sell–I have difficulty concentrating (in fact, audiobooks are completely illegible to me) and find myself overpowered by feelings of restlessness. PGF is pretty much the only poetry podcast I’m listening to–it tackles compelling and relevant topics while still remaining anchored in the poet’s personal practice and observations. I possess no technical language for describing how and why a podcast is good, but this is a phenomenal podcast from a poet whose work I love.
2. Paige Morris’s short story “Apples for Tigers”: As an eternal Paige simp, I was elated when she brought a draft of this story to workshop and pumped for when it was published at Honey Literary. I revisited this story a few times since, and I am always blown away by how deftly she weaves the miraculous with loss and grief. Terrific writer, human, [insert sentimental Justin mumbling]. She is the best.
3. Solmaz Sharif’s Customs: an excellent collection with two standout poems–“Patronage” and “An Otherwise.” Lines from those two pieces have been bouncing around my empty skull for weeks.
4. Jacob Geller is one of my favorite video essayists, and I’ve been slowly making my way through his videos. His work has such a distinctive voice that combines solid analytical lenses with an artfulness and generosity toward whatever media he’s talking about. Most of the shows, books, and games that he talks about I have never personally consumed, but he’s able to properly contextualize them and snugly fit them within overarching themes that have expansive implications. I especially like “Fear of Big Things Underwater” and “Fixing My Brain with Automated Therapy.”
5. Lauren Berlant’s On the Inconvenience of Other People: Berlant has been one of the most significant influences on my critical/imaginative perspective, so reading their final book is a bittersweet experience. Very, very slowly making my way through it–the first read of any of their monographs is always a slow one for me, taken in alongside the faltering steps of improvised life.
Well, a rough post slorped out after months of inactivity. Looking to get back into a regular rhythm, excited for all the things yet to be read and written and lived.