Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Editing While Female

So, y'all know I'm an editor, right?

And I think it's pretty clear, at this point, that I'm a woman. 

And apparently, it's hard to be a woman doing anything because misogyny exists, and it manifests all the time, sometimes in humorous ways.

Take this, for example:

A male submitted a poem to me. The poem's title was something along the lines of "Drunk Poem."

It was bad. Not offensively bad, but, well, bad. I send him my customary rejection letter, which goes something like this:

"Thank you for your submission. I appreciated the chance to read "Drunk Poem," but it's not a good fit for our journal at this time. I wish you the best of luck in placing this piece elsewhere. Sincerely, K" 

To which submitter responds:

"Thanks, Babe. What kind of poetry do you publish, then?" 


At first, I chuckled. How ridiculous. It reminded me of Rush Limbaugh. Or even something Donald Trump would say if a woman rejected his poetry (harharhar).

And then I thought about it for a microsecond more and realized that this is kind of troubling. Not troubling as I'm so troubled I'm offended, persay, but troubled as in what it means exists in our society, particularly in editing. This male submitter responded by calling me "babe" which is a problematic word -- it infantalizes me, knocks at my position of "power" as a woman. It suggest something about my physical appearance, too, as if that's more important than my editorial vision for my journal. It genders me. It puts me down. It's an insult, really. I'm not a babe. I'm not a child. I'm an editor with a brain who knows things, who knows what good poetry is, and who knows that "Drunk Poem" isn't it. It's illustrative of a greater problem in the way society and many men, including in the literary world, view and treat women. If we don't realize their greatness, then it's clearly because our lady brains aren't mature enough to do so.

I posted our exchange in my women poets facebook group, and I got a pretty wonderful uproar of a response. Some of my personal favorite suggests were to send him an anonymous bag of dicks (made of gummy bears), to call him "sugar balls," or to simply respond with, "your mom's." 

I've elected to take the advice of many women. This submitter likely wanted a rise out of me, and I wasn't going to give him that. I chose to ignore it. And in the future, I probably won't pay very close attention to this submitter's poems. I googled his name and found that he's not really a well known or published poet, so I figured it would just be best to leave it at that. 

Perhaps most disturbing, though, is that this anecdote ignited a conversation about how pervasive this kind of behavior in the literary world is. One of my friends PMed me to tell me about a submitter who, after receiving a rejection letter from her, continues to email her pornographic story synopses, asking if she likes them. Another women posted to the thread that she once received a rape poem from a male submitter, and in the cover letter, he sent a date request. And there's anecdotes everywhere about similar behavior.

When is it going to stop? Never. That's when.

I'm able to laugh off the minor "Babe" incident and move on. What I'm not able to do, though, is accept this kind of behavior, trend, and language as status quo. We, as women, shouldn't have to expect to be treated badly because of our gender. But we are. And language matters. And the only answer is to keep writing, keep being a badass, and keep having conversations about everyday misogyny that exists. Yes. It exists. I swear it. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Why Hello There, Spring Break!

My oh my is this semester flying by or what?

Today is my unofficial start of spring break, and it's already been a wild and crazy semester. Somehow, though, a bit miraculously, I've been able to keep my head above that proverbial water. I'm not ridiculously behind with my grading. I feel on track with my teaching. I've traveled to Corpus Christi and to San Angelo. And I'm even ::gasp:: getting a little bit of writing done. Oh, and I'm training for a half marathon, too!

I think I'm getting a hold of this whole time management thing. I've been stressed, but not a ridiculous amount of stress, more like just a healthy, "I got this" kind of stress. Good things.

So, I thought with this little blogpost today, I thought I'd look back at a few of the significant events I've done so far and give some context and reflections on them.

One of my goals this year is to expand my poetry circle. I love the valley, it's true, but I want to explore and be a part of poetry communities around the state -- to talk to other poets, learn from them, hear their work, and hopefully, share mine, too. So, with that in mind, I set myself up with a busy busy schedule and I've been saying "yes" to out of area invitations more than I typically do, even if it means occasionally canceling a class here or there.

I headed out to Corpus Christi last month for the first of what I hope will become the annual People'e Poetry Festival. It was such an amazing experience! I was blown away by the poetry community in that town. The festival itself was put together incredibly well, which is definitely not an easy feat to accomplish. I had the honor of serving on a panel about border and immigration poetry with many of my fellow valleyites -- Edward Vidaurre, Arturo Saldana, Daniel Garcia Ordaz, and Odilia Galvan. As someone who lives in the borderlands, I feel like I have an interesting connection and relationship with it and immigration. I'm white, of course. And the last thing I want to do is to make my narrative, my view of the borderlands, the focus of a conversation, while ignoring the marginalized voices. I hope I was successful in getting that message across to the audience.

Perhaps more significant than sharing my own poetry and perspectives, I was so privileged to listen to the poetry of others, of course from my fellow panelists, but also, from some of the poets from Corpus. There were so many talented poets there, from professors to students to community readers. I was perhaps most impressed with Robin Carstensen's work about gender, feminism, and sexuality. She had this really rocking poem about Selena Quintanilla that I was totally in love with. I was also blown away by Ken Hada's work. He's an Oklahoma poet who writes about nature, and his work, honestly, made me feel like I wanted to be a better person. I left the festival inspired to write. It's amazing what meeting new poets can do for the writer's soul.

No rest for the weary. The following week, the first in March, we had FESTIBA at our university. I was involved with three different panel events, because, you know, I love doing that to myself. Jan Seale had a spotlight reading in my poetry appreciation class, I spoke on a panel about publishing to Phil Zwerling's creative writing class (along with Jan Seale, David Bowles, and Sarah McDonald Gonzales), and read on an alumni panel with my fellow MFAers Rodney Gomez, Rob Moreira, and Brian Carr.

Immediately after the alumni panel, I had to high tail it out of dodge and northwest to San Angelo. And that's exactly what I did. B and I drove all afternoon and evening and arrived in San Angelo just after midnight. Ugh. Why did I do this to myself, I was wondering on the long drive up? But then, when I got there, it all made sense.

I had the honor of being invited to read at Angelo State University at their 20th annual Writer's Conference. Again, an AMAZING event! I unfortunately missed the first day of it due to my FESTIBA madness, but I still felt like I was able to bask in the wonderful atmosphere of the conference. The first readers I had the pleasure of hearing were none other than Karla Morton and Alan Brickelbach, two former Texas Poet Laureates. And wow. Just. Wow. Karla read this piece about a dying little girl with red hair that brought me to tears and reminded me why we're here on earth, to live, to enjoy our time on earth, and to find our purpose. That's the power of poetry, yeah?

I read my revisionist myth poems, like I oft do, and gave a little talk about feminist revisionist myth. B and I also had a blast exploring the town of San Angelo -- it has this real west Texas feel to it, a rugged, tough beauty, an interesting mix of cultures. For example, as we were exploring some of the old, historic (some abandoned) buildings we stumbled into a wine tasting! And then, just across the railroad tracks, we walked into a BBQ competition. We finished off the night with a burger (veggie) and beer in downtown. The next day, tuckered out, we made the long drive home, though vowing to return.

So now, here I am, in my bathrobe on my sofa, catching my breath and looking ahead at a long week of doing absolutely nothing. Ok, that's not entirely true. I'm on spring break, so I'm going to use this time wisely to write, to read (currently reading Goodbye Mexico: Poems of Remembrance by Sarah Cortez), and run. Next month, I have two trips coming up -- one for business (The Texas Institute of Letters in Austin), and one for pure, pure pleasure (The Outlaw Half Marathon in Luckenbach). It's been a great semester so far, and I can't wait for the rest of it to unfold.

Cheers to spring, my favorite season!