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Labia Versus the Machine: Round Two.

19 Dec

Today I’d like to talk about want. We performers are sometimes merchants of desire. Part of our power lies in the fact that we outwardly embody what others secretly seek. The stage is a kind of rounded glass for whatever we say and are in its purview: desire is magnified.

This poses an interesting problem. I’m not going to speculate or moralize about the responsibility of performers to admirers, who often see our offstage selves through this same distorted lens. The main point is, since we’re onstage, we get a little extra glow to many outside eyes.

Women are susceptible to particular hazards when it comes to this phenomenon. Can’t say why in all instances. I was thinking about this today, on the bus ride from Charlotte to Richmond, and the bus ride from Richmond to DC. Quiet, quiet rides. Almost empty buses, small snow and, other than the cows, hibernating life in the world beyond. The sudden glut of new books of mine kinda messed with my last-minute packing scheme, so I didn’t bother disturbing the stacks ISO iPod, &c. I mostly sat and let my brain traipse.

Here’s something fun to talk about: When you’re a woman performing onstage, you’re not only taking on general glamour. You’re also embodying the history of women who’ve taken the stage before you, and the remnants and mutations in yourself and your contemporary audience.

For much of human history, in much of the world, a woman who performed (especially one who toured from place to place) was seen as available. Actresses, women who worked in the circus, comedians, singers and musicians… Regardless of their subject matter, they were all seen as being one small step away from prostitutes. Why wouldn’t women of this nature be available? In most cultures, it’s normal for women to be static, and overseen by some authority. When a woman isn’t – especially when she puts herself on display in public – she is open.

It might seen contradictory that a woman who takes agency, one who attempts to own her own voice, winds up being sexualized in a different way than her male counterparts. It can be overwhelming when folks read different meanings into your work and self onstage. It can also be tremendously flattering, for women and for men. All of us seem to like and need that, much of the time.

Main thing to know is where you stand. If you have a clear idea of what your heart and body and all else want from interaction with folks offstage, you’re less likely to be taken off-guard after you disembark once you’ve done that vulnerable poem about your family member dying, that euphoric poem empowering nerdiness, &c. Let’s be real. We come offstage, we’re vulnerable. Whether we feel like superheroes or tiny worms.

Know where you stand, and say it. Be clear on what you want before you get up there. Learn to recognize trends in fans’ and peers’ behavior so you can go with what you actually want, and who you actually want to trust, when you need someone.

Please don’t let fear own you. It’s natural to be aware of folks who are trying to prey on you, but I promise most of this is conditioning. If you find folks approaching you aggressively, you have a number of different responses that might be effective. Sister/brotherhood, wit, physical training, mental and emotional control, common sense… While these methods aren’t failsafe, they tend to work. Do what you need to take care of yourself, but please don’t feed fear haphazardly.

It’s also okay to want to kiss and grope and sex people.

For women especially, although this has definitely been the case for some men: be cautious when dealing with fellow poets. Some men get pushed out of the poetry scene by peers, but it happens to women more often. Most folks who’ve been around for a long time would argue, I think, that women who are new to the scene should consider their options very carefully. If you don’t have a solid professional rep and connections of your own when you get involved with someone else who does have those contacts, you risk losing all that work should y’all break up.

A lot of women get waylaid by sex and romance in this and every profession, it seems. I’m a big believer in the potential of the genitals and heart to bring joy. But I guess a part of me thinks there are things I do that matter outside of all that. ❤

You Know You’re a Sweet Little Lovemaker.

31 Jan

I was raised in a house dominated by fucken strong, sexy women-of-will. My years in slam have blessed me with the friendship and example of unabashed divas like Sonya Renee Taylor, Gabrielle Bouliane, and Mona Webb, women who can outsmart you, outclass you, outsexy you, and have you walking away feeling lucky you got three minutes in the ring.

Yep. I am no stranger to Foxy Ladies.

So I took the (very nice!) train from Bellingham to Vancouver.

See? Very nice automatic glass door.

Upon arrival, I suffered the unpleasant realization that, yeah, that one time I got arrested? And spent the night in a holding cell? And my parents never found out because I was out of town (hi Mom and Dad) and the charges were dismissed because several foreign princes were involved (long story, not as porny as it sounds, sadly)? Yeah. Coulda been turned away at the border.

Luckily, the border patrol seemed to feel sorry for me, with my meager briefcase of homemade chapbooks that I easily convinced them weren’t worth the paper they were printed on.

(I am a threat to no one.)

Anyway, the gentle yet fiercely protective Angus Adair was waiting across the border to shepherd me through.

People.

When you get in the habit of regularly haunting terminals throughout the world, the tiny gesture of someone meeting you on arrival or driving you to the airport can bring you to tears (hi again, Mom and Dad). But Angus actually came to me, sans car, ready to battle the border patrol to the death. He gave me a monster hug and taxied me over to where I was staying, making sure I was settled in before heading home.

Please hug Angus for me.

Right now.

I’ll wait.

In this wildebeest existence of few and far between sweet spots and havens barely big enough to cradle one ovary with care, there exists, tucked inside a wall of pines, just off the wonderland of Vancouver’s Commercial Drive, the Foxy House. I was tired, grimy, near defeated – but setting foot inside this place after my border battle was not unlike battling half a mile through a sandstorm only to step into a puddle that turned out to be a sea of milk that had been sweetened, previously, by cereal with colorful marshmallow bits.

Jess, Nora, Chris and Keith were talking story in the dark golden light of the living room. Jess was smoking by the window, cackling and playing her wit like a slap bass. Nora was deadpan humor in a robot-printed onesie, swilling spiked eggnog from a teacup. Chris wore a riding helmet and sipped nog from his own teacup, romping with Nora as the mood suited them. Keith was laughing at it all, stroking the puppy in his lap (Margaret Thatcher), watching people go off like firecrackers around him.

I wasn't joking about the helmet.

This was my first impression of this mostly Canadian stumblefuck of hooraydom. My first impression?

Everyone here is weird. Praise motherfuckin be.


***

INTERLUDE: How to Have Loud Sex.

Naturally vocal in the bedroom (and dining room), I have generally attempted to downplay the decibel level of my love cries. You know, so other people can sleep and stuff. I did not participate in any sexing while in the confines of the Foxy House, but, ha, the going standard while I was there seemed to be: do it as loud and as often as possible. In honor of the Foxies, then.

* Do Not Give a Fuck Whilst Fucking. In order to have loud sex successfully, it’s important that you not care who might be listening in on you. That means embracing the fact that you’re taking carnal pleasure by the throat (probably out of wedlock) and enjoying it. If you’re embarrassed by this being public knowledge, loud sex is not for you. The only exception to the “Do Not Give a Fuck” rule? If the thought of someone listening in makes you hot.

* Exercise Your Range. If you’re a lady, don’t be afraid to grunt. If you’re a man, a high-pitched moan can be really eerie and lovely. Don’t just make the sounds you think you’re supposed to make just because that’s what actors in southern California do. If you feel like singing or making small talk, try it out. You might like it. A lot.

* Words, Words, Words. Make sure you and your partner have a general understanding of what kind of language you like: naughty/nice, for one. This is especially important if you’re going to be screaming something that everyone in the neighborhood can hear.

* Say My Name. It never gets old.

***

Of course, before the Foxies could accept me, I had to pass a Filthy American test. After Chris brought me an apricot beer and I’d had a chance to smoke a cigarette and relax, Jess called me out: what did I think of Obama’s presidency to date?

(Everyone was suddenly very silent and attentive.)

I don’t have the best grasp of politics. I just know what little I’ve read and seen and how I feel about it. So I said, plainly, that we’re all a little disappointed right now. Obama’s commitment to continuing the wars his predecessors began is surprising and upsetting. His handling of the early stages of the economic crisis showed him to be naive at best. But it’s unreasonable to blame one man for problems that are obviously systemic, that existed long before he was even born.

The Canadians seemed pleased with my little answer. Jess smiled and offered to get me another apricot beer. And suddenly I was a part of the love and the conversation, all of it, Foxy Foxy 1-2-3.