Thursday, September 15, 2005

Scribble, scribble. It's difficult not to be tendentious in a dissertation. Or rather, it's difficult for a dissertation writer not to tend to assimilate every bloody thing to his or her dissertation. Seeking a grip on our non-pastoral reality.

Erica's chapbook is dominated by meditations on identity or dual-identity, in this case lesbianism and Jewishness, against a classically suburban American background. There are prose poems narrating the discomfort of having identity and the possibilities of nonidentity: as "facially speaking" says, "there's something about a lack of a backbone. a certain flexibility." The title poem, "the two-coat syndrome," is a crown of sonnets tracking resistance to identity and also a certain fatigue from that resistance: "I am not in search of kudos / or testimonials. it's only the beginning / of this book. and I can't control / where a name appears. twice." My favorite poem or piece of a poem is titled "from To the Frogs in My Cube," in which the title frogs have endearing little Hebrew names, never capitalized: "moshe," "shmuel," "chaim" (the odd woman out is "minerva"—sounds Greek to me). That missing spine pops up again as a signifier of the identity that's bound up with/in one's body and requires less expression than bemused acknowledgment or playful refusal:
shmuel, you sprawl along
this barrier so ambidextrous.
it's as if you are missing
a spine. you sleep alongside
Debbie Friedman, humming
those Jewish holiday ditties
on the most secular of dates.
it is hot here in the morning.
My old Vassar friend Jeremy is in Syria and his travel-posts are worth a look. He has a fearlessness and openness about him which I've long been impressed with; I think his goal is eventually to visit every non-European country on earth. He's off to a good start. Hopefully he'll have some pictures when I seem in the Adirondacks in early October for an impromptu college reunion.

Speaking of world travel and pictures, Sitemeter has this amazing new feature where you can see the locations of people who've visited your site on a map of the world. In fact, I can see from the map here that I got a hit from the Syrian Arab Republic sometime today. Hi Jeremy! Other visitors today have hailed from Saskatchewan, Ontario, Mexico, Manitoba, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. You must admit that this is extremely cool.

Back to the diss.

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