My Laptop Died and I was Buried Alive

Above is a sneak-peek of my retelling of The Walled-Up Wife,

as presented by the amazing Manor House Quarterly. (If you really really really like what you see, leave a comment.

I have one extra copy to share with some lucky person, so if you really really really do love it, I’ll send it to you.)   

Happy last day of poetry month everyone!

First, I would like to apologize for not posting more “Living Poetry Projects” this month.  My computer died, is dead, and may never live again. This isn’t the first time my laptop has caught on fire, but it is still difficult to lose EVERYTHING—baby photos, contacts, and every word written. (I really need to get in the practice of backing up my files.)

It might take me awhile to scrape together enough nickels and dimes to buy a replacement laptop, but when I do, I promise more Living Poetry for everyone.

Along with the fatality of my beloved laptop, I was buried alive this weekend. That’s right. Buried alive. And surprisingly, it felt great.

Students, teachers, and artist gathered at Antelope Valley College to immure me within 500 pounds of cider block while I read from The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook edited by Alan Dundes.  Alan Dundes brings together eighteen essays on this classic ballad. This poem is about the tragic sacrifice of a female victim to ensure the successful completion of a building. Dundes concludes the collection with his own feminist and psychoanalytic interpretations of the ballad, followed by suggestions for further reading. This is a great read.

I first read this book after giving birth to my son; it has haunted me ever since.  I couldn’t help myself; I had to know this poem—had to become this poem.  After writing my own retelling, it seemed important to put myself “in” the wall. With the help of a videographer, photographer, students, painters, dancers, even a sandwich maker, I was buried alive!

What I learned from the experience is, if I’m surrounded by people whome I love and trust, I can face even my greatest fear—death and burial. With love, I can find joy hiding behind the mask that terrifies–a grave, becomes a womb. The most difficult part of this experience was not being able to see the color, dance, and light that were building upon my tomb.

I will be very excited to share the footage once we have edited the event into a short film. Photographs should be ready to share in the next few weeks. But for now, I thought I would just mention that the event didn’t kill me—in many ways the project re(birthed) me.

Poetry is life.

Along with a fun poetry project, I had the privilege of meeting Dane Cardiel (editor of Manor House Quarterly) and his friend Jeff Umphres. They drove from San Diego to help bury me. These gentlemen renew my faith in imagination and inspire me to do more for the arts. Art finds its roots in friendship.

For more information about the project, read Antelope Valley Arts blog.

Ghosts and Sea Creatures: Jason Hughes Photos

Jason Hughes is a photographer in my town. (By town, I mean we live on the same dirt roads on the outskirts of Los Angeles.)

We have been working together on a project about those on the outskirts—those who exist in the in-between spaces. With the help of musician Robert Fisher, we have been cutting, molding, and sewing together multiple voices, music, and images to make an imaginary home. We are calling it Ghost World.

You can read more about it on the blog “The Bodie Project.”

In addition to Ghost World, Jason has been helping me assume the light and shadows of Circe.

In addition to Circe and Ghost World, I’m hoping to turn myself into a ghost before poetry month is over—with the help of many talented artist (including Jason) I’m going to be buried alive. Should be fun.

Long live poetry—that ghost light on the page.

The Living Poetry Project: Diane Di Prima

Diane Di Prima’s R.D.’s H.D. is part of the Lost & Found series. This lecture / chapbook series is delightful—and by delightful I mean my inner poetry-pirate is dancing gleefully over word-treasures retrieved from the depths of an archival ocean.

According to the project write-up:

Lost & Found: the CUNY Poetics Document Initiative emerges from archival work and contemporary textual scholarship being done by students in the English Program at theGraduateCenter of the City University of New York…

By looking in particular at extra-poetic work by writers who have come to characterized or fall under the rubric of the New American Poetry, the Initiative can illuminate still largely unexplored terrain of this essential field of 20th-century American literary history and culture…

The key is for these texts not to be chosen as historical curiosities but for their ability to intervene and intersect with conditions and interpretations of the present.

What I found in Diane Di Prima’s 16 page lecture is a map—yes, a treasure map! The compressed nature of her lecture gives significant keys to learning many new layers to poetry. It will take me 16 years to walk the pathways Di Prima offers in R.D’s H.D., but for now I have her insights on “The Poetics of Influence.”

Di Prima explains:

In proposing a series called “The Poetics of Influence” Aaron Shurin opened for me the issue of the actual creativity or poesis involved. Poesis of Influence. Simply, that the one influenced cast a selective light on the influencer. Creates or re-creates the Daemon or Genius or Star under which s/he is working by seeing and highlighting those aspects under which speak to her/him.

no two poets have ever been “influenced” by the same Dante, or the same Shakespeare. Keats’ Shakespeare and Yeats’ Shakespeare walk (stride) in different universes. One could say that in the world of the imagination the Influencer, if s/he is touched with Genius, becomes infinite, one infinity of many out of which the Influenced is free to choose the set or series which suits his/her purpose. One imagines the Great Dead who sat for Blake sitting also for Picasso or Goya. Those differences.

Imagining “those differences” is enthralling (but it is terrifying). “Those differences” echo the complications of Derrida’s Differance (the mark of the future and the past in a present moment which is neither).

She explains the relationship between Robert Duncan and H.D. as:

In one sense the H.D. Book is a book of lineage, a tracing of continuation of traditions in Robert Duncan’s life, in H.D.’s life. The ways they [influencer and influenced] run parallel, the places where they touch or diverge. As the prose itself touches, gathers itself into a node or nexus of correspondence or spins off in a thousand directions, breaks and regathers.

Yes. Yes. Yes. This is it isn’t it? “The” reason for writing—at least my reason for writing. It is family. It is always family—or to stretch the word family to the familiar—writing is an effort to maintain contact with what/who is loved—regardless of time, space, or disturbance. With writing what/who is loved can always be reached—even if such ties require complete reinventions of the self.

Writing then can be seen as a devoted practice of “loving” and “letting go.” (I’m still working on the “letting go; I’m rather a failure at that part of the process.)

If poetry is in the heights and depths—lineage is the map to reaching heights and depths. Di Prima explains,

Lineage works on us through two perpendicular planes or fields which converge in the poet. there is the influence, the Ear-Whispered Transmission through time…And there is also mouth-to-earness of our own era, what touches our living ear (flesh) through the moving air.

There will always be greater heights and deeper depths with love (and poetry). They are with “your blood and your stars.” I’m beginning to realize that when I say “I wish I could write better” I really mean “I wish I could love better.”

This Easter, I gave eggs filled with Di Prima’s words to Vegas Pirates and California Dinosaurs. (Time is collapsing with every treasure found–and with every scattered circumstance, time is the treasure found.)

Spring Blessing to All.