poemless. a slap in the face of public taste.

March 17, 2011

Checking In (with politics, art & poetry)

Filed under: Too Much Information — poemless @ 3:17 PM
Tags: , , ,

The past week or two has left me feeling like I’ve been trampled by a drunken crowd, and I am not even referring to St. Patrick’s Day. You might imagine that a person with major depression would spend all day lying in bed. Oh how I’d give anything to spend a whole day in bed. But construction season has arrived in Chicago with the spring air, and peace is elusive. A few mornings ago I awoke to two turtle doves on the windowsill by my pillows. It was magical… until they were swiftly chased away by the clatter of jackhammers below. A metaphor for my emotional state.

I hate Spring. I REALLY hate Spring.

Monday evening I met with my politically-minded friends at a bankrupt hippie joint on the outskirts of town to celebrate our recent victories in the the local Aldermanic elections. Most notable was that of Ameya Pawar, a young, first-time, independent candidate who, to everyone’s surprise – including his own, won a seat that had been held by the same machine candidate for 30+ years. Democracy, it seems, does have its moments. In other news of the evening, Ilya Sheyman announced his exploratory commission for for Congress. Ilya is a fabulous young man I’ve known through Democracy For America, a far more nuts&bolts&elbow grease lefty organization than its name belies. He is a smart, community-minded, dedicated guy with gobs of organizing experience, and perhaps most importantly, he bought me a drink. Tell Ilya to Run!

I must confess that having several attractive Russian Jewish men buy me drinks within the course of one week has got me thinking that this is a habit I could really get into. Perhaps I should have dramatic life crises more often?

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent having a hysterical breakdown after two separate people took it upon themselves to send me wholly inappropriate emails. It’s a miracle I survived.

NEVER. EVER. CONTACT ME ABOUT MY FATHER.

Some people find the peace they seek in churches; I find it at The Art Institute. So I gathered the shattered pieces of myself and made a pilgrimage, to escape my ego and remind myself why life is worth living. The John Marin and Margaret Bourke-White exhibits were especially divine. Side-stepping the intellectual debate over What is art? and what is good art, I admit I approach it like wine: consume a lot, try anything once, decide what you like and just go with it. Marin’s compositions had an airiness (thanks, ds) and playful pastels like Duffy but with a modern, edgy abstraction. Bourke-White’s Depression Era photographs were too timely, but I preferred her highly stylized decontextualized industrial photos that reminded me of Vertov’s Man with Movie Camera. I could fill my apartment with the works of both of these artists and feel as though they’d all been created especially for me. I was also able to revisit my old friends the Chagall windows, Picasso’s Old Guitarist, Van Gogh’s Bedroom, Miro’s Circus Horse, the still life with a monkey and that reclining female nude with her back turned to the room.

Friday through Monday was a blur of social engagements and visits with dear friends, old college dorm-mates, family, gluttonous amounts of food (Spires’ favorite Cafe Selmarie, Spacca Napoli, croissants, butternut squash kugel…), too much generosity, good long talks, glasses of wine, and everything else one does everything else in hopes of enjoying. And Tuesday I crashed. Very hard.

During it all I continue daily therapy, struggle to sleep (though I am eating again), remain overwhelmed by my obligations and take medicine I hate. I take the medicine because I saw a PBS documentary about PTSD and depression which explained that scientists have recently discovered that these tortures, in addition to making you feel like shit, KILL YOUR BRAINCELLS. Well, so long as I absolutely must continue in this world, I’d like to have all the braincells I can get. So, drugs…

I’ve also become obsessed with the situation in Japan. I am told it is not wise for someone so emotionally fragile as myself to watch the news. Neither is it wise to drink or chase boys, but they way I see it, a bad decision is still a decision, and therefore an improvement over the anxiety-induced paralysis in which I had previously been trapped. So I am addicted to the shots of terrible disaster, emergency alerts and incomprehensible press conferences on NHK, which is constantly on my TV. Sometimes it is not even in English, but I watch anyway. This happened to me during Katrina, 9-11 and the cloning of Dolly the Sheep. I bought all the magazines with Dolly on them. It’s morose, really. Yet it does seem weirdly therapeutic.

It’s not all so awful. I did buy a book at Borders’ fire sale. I know. I feel really horribly guilty about it. I was just posting hysterically about the threat of homelessness. But when my step-brother was sleeping on my studio floor I realized the only bedtime reading I had was an anthology of erotica that arrived in a care package from a friend. It was mortifying. I suppose a better idea would be to go to the library, but I keep having my books recalled before I finish them! And besides, I was not only buying something pleasurable for myself, but supporting a cause my readers know is near and dear to my heart: the contemporary literature in translation movement. Yes, I purchased the Best European Fiction 2011, edited by Sasha Hemon. Oh! I know! It seems it was only yesterday that I was reviewing the inaugural edition of this project. Oh, halcyon days!

In closing I was going to post a poem written by my Russian poetry professor, Ilya Kutik, about a Tsunami. But hell if I can find the damned thing on line. I did, however, find this, which seems just as appropriate:

A Hermit Pets a Cat, WhileThinking About the Ocean by Ilya Kutik
(trans. Andrew Wachtel)

I

O, my verse! Walk, don’t run…

Why run anyway? And where to…For you can’t

roll outta here like a tear drop

from grief—because the ocean’s made

of the name teary doremifasaline…

And I don’t want to add saltiness

to the world—much less to the water..Tears

have a lot to learn from the ocean: they are suicidal

flashes…While the ocean’s breast bursts against the shore

and, shazam, rises again…Which proves

once more that—despite the eternal

self-torment, it’s not worth taking your own life.

As always, thanks for reading.

5 Comments »

  1. De gustibus and all that…spring (typically lasting about 2 weeks) is my favorite season in Chicago. Summer is my least favorite, usually. Unless you can spend it at the lakefront.

    Your comments about the Art Institute remind me of how much relief I got from the museums of NY when I was living in New Jersey – a grungy, charmless state that lives down to its reputation. Going to MOMA after enduring the highways, bland burbs, run-down industrial towns and identikit strip malls was like getting a powerful spiritual drug after a long period of deprivation. One really understands the purpose of art in such a context.

    Are there still plenty of decent used bookstores where you are? When I was living in Lakeview, a bunch of them were in walking distance of me.

    Comment by Scowspi — March 18, 2011 @ 6:32 AM | Reply

  2. There are still a lot of used bookstores, but I went to Borders because they’re closing and having an “everything must go!” sale. Like, even the fixtures.

    Even at the lakefront summer in Chicago is gross, IMO. My problem with spring is psychological and dates back to my youth. I associate it with the end of the academic year, saying goodbye to friends, not having school to escape to, so much pressure to “get out and take advantage of the weather” (which always involved competitive sports), cracked robbin eggs littering the sidewalks. It’s all very depressing to me.

    Comment by poemless — March 18, 2011 @ 11:01 AM | Reply

  3. Hey you, I’m glad to hear you got out and about and especially glad you went to the Art Institute. “I admit I approach it like wine: consume a lot, try anything once, decide what you like and just go with it.” Sounds like an excellent way to approach art. :)

    Sorry for everything that is going on in your outer and inner life these days. This is a great post though. I’m sending you an email.

    Comment by maryb — March 19, 2011 @ 11:49 AM | Reply

  4. Thank you, Toscha, that’s… funny rhymes.

    What do you think about Brodsky and Dmitry Bykov? My favourite poets…

    Comment by Evgeny — March 20, 2011 @ 9:00 AM | Reply

  5. I apologize… have completely forgot myself… please, remove my last comment. I’m sorry.

    Comment by Evgeny — March 20, 2011 @ 9:05 AM | Reply


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