A Quick Reflection on the Avant-Garde

Returning to this blog, I wish to just give a quick and concise reflection on my issues between the past and current avant-garde scene. A theme this blog as approached before, but I wish to just add to the things I’ve already said.

Today I spent some time watching some short movies from the avant-garde film director Storm de Hirsch. No particular reason beyond her name appearing on a list of underground film directors. What also interested me was a quick read from her wiki-page: “She had been a poet and published a number of works in the early 60’s. She wanted to find a new mode of expression of her thoughts that went beyond words on the page, which is when she turned to filmmaking.” Being a poet myself, and having been attracted to film many times, I couldn’t resist in wanted to see what she made. Here I want to focus on two films in particular: “Divinations” and “Peyote.”

Both films are very interesting, though strangely simplistic. Just a series of images, as if a mind in reflection. They both displayed very interested techniques in cinematography, though at the same time very simple. I’m not going to call the effects surreal, though it very well has a connection with the mind and thoughts and maybe even emotion. Some called it psychedelic, which I wouldn’t call it that either. This is what the avant-garde is about. Products without a distinct description or label. It could be connected with plenty of thoughts or ideas, but outwardly displays none.

And then I couldn’t help but think about the things that are considered avant-garde today (including many of the things I complained about before). I believe the major essence that separates the two is their relation to the audience. Watching these two films, I know that they weren’t aimed for my viewer. However, there was a power in them that attracted me to it. Undoubtedly, many other people felt this same strange attraction. Many of the avant-garde that are running about today seem to do whatever they can to distract from the audience. So instead of being an open process of which people from all backgrounds can view and hopefully create a dialogue, we get a bunch of people huddled in a mass-mess claiming some sort of authority about something. And unfortunately they are absolutely blind to this close-mindedness. This king-lear blindness reveals more about the person, the so-called artists, in their more practical goals – to promote themselves or some sort of ideology. And though it is noble that the artists today seek to do more outreach, the whole exercise is corrupted by the insidious parts of society we don’t seek to mention (specifically our mainstream culture and social attitudes). We’re a very individualistic society, but the individual is in dire need to belong to some sort of community. This idea of fractured identity becomes the main issue of modern society.

The old avant-garde seem to have predicted this. In attempting to address it, a new audience can come to question and discuss it. The new avant-garde seems more interested to ignore the issue or use it as a prop. At the end, Art is the one to suffer. Art and Anti-Art are now both of the same enterprise – commodity based with little to no innovation. A mass-produced copy machine printing out a single page over and over with the word Art typed on it, fading with the decreasing levels of ink until the blank one receives the same response as all the others.

Juan Mirador

Semester Review

This will be quick.

Heading back into college has really brought to light several issues I have with it. One of the glaring issues at hand was how my creativity felt sapped as the semester waned. This semester I decided to surround myself with only literature (or literary related) courses. It was clear to me, from the beginning, that I would do lots of reading. Half the time, I couldn’t even get all of it done – having scheduled my time horribly. That’s a lesson learned, but reflecting on the pieces I had to read brought up another issue – I didn’t mind many of the works particularly interesting.

I studied Romanticism, Mixed (Race) Literature, Latino Literature (written in English), and Literary Criticism. These subjects were interesting within themselves and provided a lot of thought-provoking discussions. The issue was that the work assigned, half the time, was unnecessary beyond just the random references. There was also way too many pieces to cover – I was avalanched several times by works that were greatly different from one another. This is, however, how college works.

So I guess my concerns fall under the way college works. Today is officially my last day of the semester. I had in my final paper, do my final exam. I don’t feel incredibly satisfied with the semester. One class, which was meant to cover Puerto Rican history, actually did a lot of harm to my interest in history overall. It was the way the classrooms were structured. Even though many of the professors seem resistant to this, everything was about the grade. Unfortunately, I decided before the semester started to not give a single iota of a damn about grades. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe I could do the work, quite the opposite, what I wanted most was to learn. If you’re not learning, you’re not going to get good grades. So why care about the grades? Learn and good grades will come naturally. Did it for me? Absolutely.

Yet that was really the only focus among many of my peers. The policies within CUNY, which I am mentioning here cautiously, though I’ve heard many a “rumor,” are being less and less enforced. Ask me how many time attendance was taken… ask me how many times a professor was absent… I don’t want to focus too much on it, but needless to say it was definitely different than when I was in college a few years ago. It is concerning. Is CUNY becoming like a for-profit college? Or is it already there? I’ll have to see as my next semester comes up.

It was a very enlightening semester. It brought in some inspirational ideas and goals, but I think that my inclination to have a career away from Academia, though I am an English major, is correct. Writing is not valued in our society. It is something Academia must accept. The students that go into it are handicapped, unless they think really creatively. I’m going to take my education into my own hands, while continuing to attend college. I want to focus on the basics, especially Grammar, and really look at all my possible options.

Take care,
Isa.

Art/Politics

Too often people confuse pontification with poetry or art. What do I mean? Well, I’ve noticed that far too often there is a need to add in politics to some artistic piece. Be it a fiery poem about misogyny or homophobia, or a direct proclamation of change. I’ve heard quite a few writers say that politics is in their work because politics is life. I believe that is something backwards about this view, especially in our time period.

The best example I can think of, in another genre of artistic expression, has been the recent piece by Kara Walker. “A Subtlety, or Marvelous Sugar Baby,” currently housed in the old Domino Sugar Refinery, in my neighborhood of Williamsburg, caused an interesting conversation between myself and my girlfriend. It is making a message, “salted with meaning” as one reviewer put it, but the whole project feels rather off. “Off” is an interesting word. It turned me off, but it felt off/awkward. The only question that continually pounded in my head was: “Why here?” Why at the Domino Sugar Refinery? Why in Williamsburg of all places? The common generalization is that this place is a very artistic place. That’s a lie. If anything, this area is sanitized – depending on the absence of art. The gentrifying community here wants a monopoly over this area’s history and culture – what Williamsburg represents. Generations of people have been living here. Now communities are slowly disappearing because we’re being priced out, or just plain forced to move. Many families are desperate to make it here. Many people my age have turned to crime, with a shooting likely to happen every week. There is simply not time or desire to create art here, in my community, because there is just too much to worry about. So why here? Why put piece that is meant to express a horrible history intrinsic to the very formation of this country in an area that has become an analogy for those same despicable behavior in modern times? If you want to speak out against Systematic Racism, why put it in an area whose very development depends on Systematic Racism?

And here’s the point. Pontifications are meant to rally a people, but only for a short time. If there is nothing structured, or no deep rationalization behind it, then it falls flat. Many poetic pontification – and especially those that are least poetic – tend to fall under two intentions (possibly more, but I’m keeping it to two): 1) As a valve to release anger 2) As a means of promotion. In Kara Walkers case, it feels like promotion. Put it in Williamsburg, you’re going to attract a certain crowd. Put it anywhere else, like a predominantly black community, then it will likely not get any attention or will attract a strange audience into a community that will become wary of the whole thing. I’m not assigning any specific judgments. There has to be an understanding. To live as an artist is the most difficult thing to do. To support yourself, either monetarily or mentally, U.S. society almost makes you sacrifice something for it. So the pontifications, in all artistic forms, will likely still remain the norm. However, I believe artists need to consider getting away from it as best they can. Push for creating fantastical narratives. Leave a slight divide between the political and the artistic.

Take care,
Isa.

Finding a Space

It has been a very busy time heading back into college and doing all the work. It hasn’t been the main reason I’ve kept away from the blog, but it was more on the more nagging reasons. I’ve come to realize that it is – of some importance – to sit on a personal piece of prose before sending it out there. Our society seems to want to find any reason to post about something: from the honest observation of strange prevalent social norms, to the plain ridiculous, to the absolute disgusting. For myself, I’ve always seen the affair as a method of validation. Someone has to, for example, post up a pic of their last meal to validate the fact they are about to eat a delicious, healthy, or comforting meal. I’ve never been interested in that, but if I’m being honest that was exactly what this blog was about. I was attempting to validate (or even gauge the popularity of) my opinions as a writer. At the end, it wasn’t really that meaningful.

So the break was taken. I threw my energies, once again, to my poetry. I’ve been very lucky to been published in several more places, including an anthology connected to Columbia University. I believe I’ve come a really interesting way in that development, and I am still growing day after day. Daily, I have to work on something. It is either something working itself out through thoughts or on the page. I am also working with this workshop – absolutely amazing – of brilliant and diverse writers. I’ve also gone back to this one particular project, with its preliminary title “The Forest of Suicide,” which I initially abandoned long ago because of reactions toward it. So the break was definitely worth taking. There was a need to refocus and further expand my knowledge and work. Far too often, this blog was more reactionary to one issue or another, without much considered thought, and with plenty of anger. I hope to get away from that.

So the break, at the end of the day, was trying to reevaluate my space – this blog. Questioning how I wanted to present myself, my work, and my ideas. And while I feel my entire blog isn’t a lost cause, which some glimpses of thoughtful/meaningful idea, I do however realize there were many flaws. There still will be, but I’ll be keeping a closer eye to it. There will definitely not be a schedule to my postings, but I hope to post regularly each week. I will cover various topics, focusing more often on the literary, but I definitely do want to cover some controversial topic that are affecting the writers/students currently. I thank all those who’ve absent-mindedly kept following, and I hope to get more readers in the future. I hope to develop, for myself, and maybe for others, a sense of community within the artistic/literary scene.

,
Isa.

Story: Bangs on a Patio

It starts off with a scene. A wide road of risen asphalt curving down a hill toward a highway. There are large cement houses, with wooden window frames, taking up big portions of land next to the road. There is absolutely no glass. There is barely a car on the road or at the highway – with only a motorbike or two buzzing through at high speeds. I sit at the wall lining up my new property, staring around the street, basking in the white heat of the sun.

Sitting with me was a family. A little girl with blond hair. I ask her if it is always this quiet, she answers a simple no. I try to ask her about the neighborhood, but I can’t make out a single answer she gives me. A sheet of sun falls right into my eyes, but I turn my head to the house right in front of me. It is a two story house, with many windows on all sides, very open. Right across the street from where I was sitting, there was the garage, lined with tar metal gates. It leads right to the kitchen, where I see a slender Korean woman fixing up the house, while her kids pass by her hip, further into the house. There are so many windows a ledges to the house that one could climb up it, to the roof, rather easily. One of the children attempts to do this, but is told to come down by the mother.

Before I could ask the little blond girl who they were, a small group of children come into the scene from the highway. They immediately begin to climb the house, looking for a kid, calling out his name over and over again – Solo. The guy, no older than twelve, appears with his mother attempting to hold him back. The group seems to have some sort of issue with the kids. It appeared as if there was a previous fight between them and someone from the group. I keep staring intently, but soon two kids from the group appear in front of me. They aren’t any older then thirteen, wearing wife-beater, showing off their non-existent muscles under their tanned flesh. They looked Puerto Rican, taking a striking resemblance to my cousin when he was little. He started showing me his boxing moves and stances, making my mother, who would appear suddenly behind me, laugh in all ways.

It was at that moment that I noticed two more kids appeared. They were definitely related to those in the group, but they were dressed differently. One specifically wore a hoodie, which was over his head, with a ball cap underneath. It was absurd looking on the kid, who had to be thirteen himself. He grips the kid away from his mother, who is trying to understand what is going on, but now the kids have gathered around the son. Then the first bang.

Five terrifying bangs, along with the screams of everyone around me, ripped through this dream. The child was being shot, in front of his mother, and I was just sitting there watching what was happening. I wasn’t worried about anything. I wasn’t shocked by it. I don’t see the body drop, nor the blood, but I see a smile come across all the children’s faces. Soon the kid with the gun turns to me, shaking his aim right at my face. So it’s come to this, I say. With that, the child slowly pulls the trigger, but with another bang everyone is gone. I’m there, alone again, looking over the road from the wall lining my property. The white heat blinding my eyes, freezing my arms.

I wake up in a cold sweat.

Envision of an Angel

The bottle couldn’t be put down soon enough, but the effects were already ringing through me with every heartbeat. It had been drinking the whole night, drinking in memory, until I couldn’t feel the cold of this alley anymore. When the effects started in, I leaned myself against a wall between a large green bin and weathered grey trash cans. I didn’t want to hold myself up, not even in my suit, but I instinctively struggled for it. I just wanted to be knocked out. Wanted to be completely away from all this. A person should only handle one death at a time. I miss her scent. I miss the playful things she wore, the jewelry she even made herself, and the room just clouded in perfume. My arms imitate all the times I wrapped them around her, but there is nothing there anymore. I drop my head back and look up. I don’t even want to think about the kid.

It was then that a wincing light fell right to my eyes. I tried to block it, but it shined all over. A cop, likely, but I grumbled for them to go away. Then I saw where the light was emulating from. A woman, in shining white rags, skin of night, and eyes of diamond slowly came upon me. Kneeling down, a rush of sadness flowed through me. Tears drench my cheeks, droplets to my blazer. I can’t contain myself. She smiles at me. Putting her hand on my cheek, she whispers something delicately. Her words fall onto my ear like bits of snow. She says: “This too shall pass.” When she is done, she slowly stands up – simply towering over me – turns and walks through the rest of the alley. What did I just see? ¿Quien?

Short Story: “… It’s Over!”

1.

“… It’s over!” Yelled a thin man as he bursts through the broken red door leading to the roof of his housing project. “Fuck you… it’s over!”
“Calm down, sir – man. What the hell are you doing? Stop running, I’m not going to hurt –” A police officer had rushed through the door trying to reach the thin man. He was a more muscular figure in his tight fitting outfit. “What the hell are you doing, Jason? Que? Everything will be alright, just calm down.”
“No! It’s over. You’re finally here to bring me in. I knew they’d send you.”
“Look. I’m just trying to do my job. You need to be brought in.”
“A bitch… That’s exactly what you are. Like always.”
“You’re suspected of killing someone! Killing someone – do you think that’s something you could get away with.”
“I told you! It wasn’t like that! I told you to tell them!”
“It doesn’t work that way. Tu sabes eso. I told them you were willing to be brought in, and I’m now chasing you up this building. I don’t know what the hell is happening now. You said –”
“I said it was an accident! I said I wasn’t even involved! I know who was involved, but I can’t have you talking to her.”
“Do be so dramatic! You’re treating this like one of the movies we used to watch.”
“When we were kids? Ha… yeah. I’ll tell you what. Since you didn’t really live a day of this sort of life, I’ll tell you; no, it isn’t anything like the movies. It’s worse. She’s involved with the wrong people and if anything comes out about her… She would be in danger of any of this shit came out!”
“Calm down. Just…”
“She’s my sister, man! I ain’t going to ‘confess’ some shit, so that you can twist it, get her name out there to satisfy your boss’s ego, and probably get her killed. Fuck you, you’re just a bitch in a blue outfit. Someone that piece of shit metal at your chest means you’re something. You’re nothing!” Jason slowly back to the edge wall of the roof, hip high, and then seated himself on top of it. “You’ve always been nothing, Junior. That’s why you became what you did. Big tough pig with a thick head. All you wanted was some praise, because your friends cheering you on… nah, that shit wasn’t enough. You needed to feel respected to everyone on the street. What’s the difference between you and that motherfucker Charley? You remember him right? Used to come around here just to harass the shit out of us living here, wave his little dick gun around, trying to force up the teenage girls; that fucked up guy. Look at you. Mister cop, everything by force, and you’re acting just the same way. Except you think you got the law on your side. You ain’t got your people though.”
“Are you done, sir?”
“You don’t know shit about what’s happening, bitch.”
“Sir, are you doing? I’m not going to ask again.”
“Yeah, I’m done officer. Completely.” Jason suddenly stood up on the ledge of the room, still face Junior. Looking over his should, he sees the nearly thirteen story drop. “There ain’t anything left.”
“Sir, step down from there!” Junior draws his gun, aiming it downward. “Step away from the edge! Don’t be so dramatic. We can talk about all this calmly at the police station.”
Calmly? What calmly? Soon as they see me in handcuff, my sister could be dead! I ain’t having it.” Jason’s began to hyperventilating quite a bit, but forced himself to breath slower. “All this shit… It ain’t worth it. To grow up like this. Shit, we’re not even mid-twenty and life is already hard. Everything has just been… fucked up. The first time he came through the house door all bobo, falling over herself, that’s when I knew we were fucked. And I go to you, just to get the same bullshit routine I get from them, by all “for the law” or some bullshit. There ain’t anything here for us. For no one. We people don’t know shit about taking care of ourselves or each other.”
“It’s over, Jason. Just get down from there. We can talk. We can make this situation right.”
“No, we can’t.”

 

2.

It was two in the morning when Officer James Ramirez, Junior approached a former childhood friend about a murder that recently happened in the area. He had finally decided that enough was enough. James knew too much of the situation of the murder, but had kept it the entire time to himself. It was during a conversation with his partner that he finally decided to take the initiative to get his friend in, have him explain the story, and put an end to the case. Junior and his partner Officer Julian Castaneda reaching an old housing project in the south Bronx – Junior’s old home. They soon saw the suspect, Jason Suarez, walking down the block next to the building that he lived in. As the police officers left the vehicle, Jason noticed, and then began run into the building.

Once inside the building, Jason intended to use the elevator to go all the way up. Know that it would just lead to his apartment, he decided to sprint up the staircase inside. Junior began to give chase thereafter, racing behind Jason, nearly able to reach him several times. Junior hesitated though. Attempted to reason with the suspect.

Here is where the story gets sketchy. They managed to reach the roof. Between them they had a loud conversation. Occupants on the top floor of the building could hear all the action going on above them. They were arguing back and forth. Sometimes it would be very loud. Other times it would be soft. Unfortunately, the details of the conversation had between the suspect and the officer were muffled by the sudden gusts of high wind. One witness said they may have been arguing over another woman.

Soon the situation escalated, as Jason began to stand at the ledge of the rooftop, swaying dangerous close to the edge. At several points here was nearly about to fall. Officer Junior called for backup, plenty of it, and the ambulance were even called. As the noise from all the emergency vehicles were coming in, an agitated Jason began to further tip himself over the ledge. He seemed determined to get his point across to the Officer. It was then that Officer Junior bum rushed Jason, pulling him off the ledge, and forcing him into the ground with all the force that he could. Unfortunately, Jason would fall right on his head cracking his skull. The paramedics soon arrived to treat the victim, who would definitely recover, but was unconscious at the time. Officer Junior was drenched in the victim’s blood.

Being question, thereafter, the details slowly began to come out. Jason was a prime suspect for the murder of prominent bodega owner, Jose “Yo-yo” Dominic, suspected to be running a drug front from one of his many stores. The case was originally being investigated as a domestic dispute turned homicide, involving Dominic’s former lover, a Mr. Flores Donoso; the drug connection was later found during the early investigation, revealed accidentally by a young woman looking to buy some painkillers from the bodega Dominic was murder in. Unfortunately, the young woman wasn’t arrested and soon disappeared before officers could question her. Through Officer Junior, it was revealed that the woman was Isabel Saurez – Jason’s sister.

Three days after the roof incident, Isabel would be found dead in her apartment – an apparent botched robbery. Though it was suspected that it was more than just a botched robbery, there was no evidence linking this “accidental” death to the murder of Jose Dominic. At the time, Jason was still at the hospital when he heard the news of his sister. Instead of showing the usual grief at losing another family member, Jason went completely silent, and refused to talk to anyone. A few hours later, the breaking of glass was heard. Jason was found dead on the sidewalk, having fallen thirteen stories, in a pool of his blood.

Officer James Ramirez, Junior offered to pay for the entire funeral.

Review: Puerto Rican Tales, Legends of Spanish Colonial Times

Cayetano Coll y Toste is a name further disappearing within the Boricua community – at least here in the U.S. He was an important historian and storyteller. He gathered up all the legends and myths of the island back in the early 20th century. For decades these stories strengthened and inspired many Boricuas sense of identity – like many legends and stories can. This books attempts to keep that idea alive by translating many of Cayetano’s stories into English, for the diaspora living away from the island.

In comparison to another book that attempts to do the same thing, Stories of Puerto Rico by Muckley and Santiago, Puerto Rican Tales doesn’t attempt to dumb things down. This translation of the stories have appeared in many anthologies dealing with Puerto Rican literature. They tell the story without making too many alterations from the original text by Cayetano. The only alteration, one that is mentioned upfront in the preface, was the cutting out of repetition. No doubt these stories were meant to be memorized, told over, read over, and spread over a long period of time. No doubt that helped add on to its legacy of being one of the most important Spanish texts on myths within Hispanoamerican literature.

Many of the stories are ones that I’ve heard of before. Each captures a glimpse of what was going on during the time of Spanish rule of Borinquen. None of them were in an obvious order, being split up into sections by the type of story they were; Romance, Adventure, Historical, Religious/Superstitious. Each attempted to grab a piece of life during a certain time. I could only have wished that things were in a more chronological order, since it was very confusing to read the very first story – “The Gold Nugget” – about early Spanish exploration and exploitation of the island, to then suddenly jump to another story – “Shark Killer” – which had to have taken place a long time after, when the Spanish assumed full government control and Christianity had become dominant among the island’s inhabitants. This jumping back and forth may have made sense splitting it into sections, but confuses anyone unfamiliar with the history of the island – likely the person who plans to pick up this book.

The stories are incredibly beautiful though. Each one should be cherished for one reason or another. Each one provides a sort of magical or mystical presence… It may be better to say a constant divine intervention that leads the events of every story. From the first story’s poetic justice against a cheater to the last story’s solemn warning through the ringing of a broken bell, there is always a sense of something beyond human explanation. Almost a magical realism or even a surrealism that seems to dominate over the stories.

I think this point is further by the fact that dreams and dream like images seem to be a constant topic covered within the stories. Take for example the beautiful story of “The Diamond Ring.” In a dream, an artillery man marries the woman he had fallen in love with – giving her a diamond ring and opening a store together. Being an artillery man, he could never afford such a thing. Then, one day, the English unsuccessfully attacked the island. The artillery man saw the light of the boat, unsure of what ship it was, but know it wasn’t one of their own. With a single cannon shot, he ripped through the mess hall of the ship, injuring the important Sir John Hawkings. (Though the story wrongly says this shot killed him… in reality he died of dysentery.) The governor, Don Pedro Suarez, was so happy about this win over the enemy that he gave the artillery man a diamond ring. Soon he gave the diamond ring to his wife to be, they married, and indeed opened a store to live out the rest of their lives in ease and happiness.

If you want a slight glimpse into the foundation of the Borinquen culture, don’t hesitate in getting this book. The stories still feel fresh, even familiar at times, but never stale. Each story is a short read, each being only a few pages long, but full for information, full of connections to the actual history of the island. Any Boricua that has never heard of Cayetano Coll y Toste should pick this book up immediately. This is your history. It is worth knowing about.

Take care,
Isa.

 

PS: Before I forget. The work was translated and adapeted by Jose Ramirez Rivera. Credit where credit is due — thank you Jose for bringing these stories into English.

Short Story: Another Job Lost

Sitting across from this old mental table, covered in folders and papers, a single computer screen glowed in between the mess. I was waiting to have my ass chewed out. It was like waiting for some injection or at a doctor’s office when you already knew the results – you just wanted it to be over and done with. Either leave in silence or having yelled a piece of your mind. It didn’t matter much at this point. I knew it was over. I knew this job was done. Being a lowly adjunct could only give you so much protection – none.

So soon the Head stomped into the room, her flat shoes making this awful tapping noise. She was wearing her usual ridiculous outfit. This time it was a mix between a western and a nun; a long black skirt, with matching black blazer, a shirt with ruffles underneath, a loosely tied thin scarf, and a black cowboy hat. Her frail figure further gave the appearance as if the clothes were being hung only by hangers. The only thing not frail about this picture was the look on her eyes, the near scowl on her face.

“What are you doing?” She started low. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“I was trying to teach –”
“Really? Don’t bullshit me. What did you do over the weekend?”
“What I usually do… work.”
“After a few drinks or some grass? Hm?”

It was at this point her voice began to rise. A drone tine of a pitch. Something just so unbearable; the beginning of the record scratching. She was angry, but not a reasoned anger.

“I was just trying to have a class, Karen. The student said something I couldn’t let go.”
“Oh? Well, a professional would have. A professional –“
“Like Prof. Paul and his little rant last month?” I slipped in.
“You think this is funny?”
“I already know the outcome. Excuse one, but that’s it.”
“‘You’re worthless…’ That’s what you said to the student?”
“Context.”
“So you’re not denying it?”

There was nothing to deny. The student said something ignorant. It HAD been a tough weekend. During the weekend I went to visit family. Over and over, the same question was asked: What are you doing? Then a surprise, or a blank look to space, or a furthering explanation by my mother. I’m a writer who just happens to be a teacher. Yet the teaching position seems to earn a little more esteem than the prior. Forget the fact I’m earning debt with this job. Each month has become another loan from friends or family. I’m almost there – I can feel it – with the editing finally complete on my novel. Yet at the same time, I don’t feel very hopeful that it will lead me anywhere. And here, in this college, was where I was stuck. The student said that writing is useless, that artists are idiots, and that school should be run her way. The only thing I did was challenge her. And when that challenge was rejected by her with silence, I had to speak my head.

“I said to her: ‘So people are wasting their time? Wasting their time caring and worrying about art? The only thing that they could care about in the world is useless? Why? It doesn’t have a monetary value attached to it? You’re worthless when you have to attach your life to an amount. Even more worthless when you judge others for not following the rules you apparently follow. You said it yourself: fuck the rules, poetry shouldn’t have rules. What you’re really saying is that you want people to follow by your rules, your expectation. You want to be praised for this great discovery of personal freedom, when at the same time you prevent yourself from learning about what the hell you’re talking about. The entire universe comes under rules, rules that gives you enough freedom to do what you like, but not enough freedom to do whatever you want. You can’t stop aging, disease, illness, cancer, or even random accidents. Yet you somehow think that art is shit because you don’t get it? That’s where you fucking criticize. That’s the point of real constructive criticism.’”
“You said all of that?”
“Yeah… I did.”
“Do you realize what the fuck you’re doing? That was professional to you?”
“Not professional… No, probably not. Needed.”
“Needed? Right. Well, I don’t need that and I don’t need you!”

Finally, the sudden screech rang through my ear from that chapped lip. I was gone.

“Now get the fuck out of here! Leave! Pack your stuff and leave! You’re nothing, you won’t be anything with that attitude, and don’t expect any recommendations! I hope to starve on the street!”
“Yeah, I bet you do.”

Guesting in a Class

It was a memorable experience. Yesterday my work was being taught in a classroom, and I was a guest to read and discuss the work along with the class. I’ve never took to analyzing my own work in a literary critical way. So I’ve been excited about it for the last few weeks, since I was asked by a professor. At the same time, I was anxious at the results. It was at my old college, LaGuardia Community College, and I don’t exactly feel welcomed there. Likely that’s my own perception. I do feel, though, that there are many problems with that college.

The class, though, was much to be expected. It was just a shy class. The students felt very young, even though many of us are probably the same age, and you could definitely see it right away. Most of the students tried to participate here and there, but it was a specific few who stood out. The thing that definitely impressed me were the results. They managed, many times, to get the point of the pieces. They also picked out things I would have never thought of, though probably do in a subconscious way. I mean, most writers are just telling a story. Sometimes they are very clear and direct with them structure, sometimes a structure comes out on its own. For these pieces, many of them had a structure/aesthetic which I don’t pay much attention to – it is just how I write. Intertwining certain elements of the city and the country was definitely a major point which I didn’t think of. It just comes to me. I never purposely think of making it that way. It also seem that the things I did intend were very clear as well. Not everything, but most things definitely. One poem in particular ends rather peculiarly, which is to symbolize the confusion felt by the character. They also felt confused, which they latched on to the narrator right away. Definitely like that.

Overall, it was a great experience for me. I thank the professor for giving me the opportunity to share my work and for the class on doing so well with it.

 

 

 

I’ll admit that it wasn’t all good feels though. This doesn’t reflect on the class, but it definitely reflects on the college.

LaGuardia doesn’t seem to change. The culture in that college is much the same when I entered there five years ago. Walking through the halls brought back memories that wasn’t even that long ago. Everything felt grey. The paint on the walls were faded. The halls looked much the same. The only change I could manage to find was in the restroom, where they finally took the opportunity to fix a section of it… yet at the same time one of the buildings (the C building) needs the entire outside fixed because it is too old, and it doesn’t seem to have even gotten started.

Focusing on the culture. Much of the same divisions were occurring in the atrium, as always, with people dividing themselves by background. This is supposed to be the most diverse college in the entire city, yet in that diversity everyone remains separate from one another. Am I surprised? Absolutely not. There is nothing to really bring anyone together. No event to rally around. No subject to discuss campus wide. No heart is what I’m essentially saying. It felt like the buildings have gone back to their very roots, plain ol’ factors, but processing the same tired attitudes.

If something gets too old, it just seems to get rebooted, but the same story happens time and time again. One example, the college’s literary magazine is back up again. They are presenting themselves as new! Having better there a couple of years, more than I needed to be, I know of at least two or three reincarnation of that very magazine. Hell, even the flyer reminded me of the when I was published in it. If you’re going to try and set up a magazine, I would at least hope that maybe you would attempt something that is new and will last more than a fucking year. These students are impressionable, many want to become writers. Yet I know for a goddamn fact that the college has not, and will not, help you achieve your goals. I’m putting it direct. I’m published because I had specific people push for me, give me advice, and tell me about the industry in-depth. At the end, I pushed myself the most. Being published in the college magazine, or even by one of the professors, never amounted much to me. I appreciate it, but it only amounted to a quick boost in self-confidence that quickly faded once I attempted to get that same work into the public….

Anyhow, that was a good enough rant about the magazine. I have more to say, but I’ll keep it to myself for now.

Overall, I just don’t feel that the college has changed. I have no doubt that it means that much of the product hasn’t changed either. Looking over two sites, one states the graduation rate is around 30% and the other around 14%? Yet the retention rate is over 50%. And no one sees a problem in this? Several years ago it was revealed to me that English classes were the most failed classes in the entire college. Has that changed? If it hasn’t, why then add another major that relates directly with English – creative writing? Fucking honestly. Being back there, even to guest for a class, really let’s all that frustration out again. There is something deeply wrong, but just keep the status quo for the sake of it. The students are being given a disservice.

Take