Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Confronting Racism

I ended my class a little early and hurried back to Des Moines today because I had to join my partner and her colleagues and students at Drake University in a show of solidarity against racism. I say “had to” because I considered it a moral obligation. I wish it weren’t necessary. But some anonymous student or students have decided again (because this is not the first time) to try to terrorize the relative handful of students of color who attend Drake. Just over a year ago, someone carved a swastika into an elevator wall and left a racist message on a student’s whiteboard outside her dorm room door. And this semester it’s escalated. Students have twice now received threatening messages slipped under their doors and a white supremacist “group” out of Idaho robocalled the university’s phone system with racist messages. (Group is in quotes because there’s reason to believe it’s basically one guy trying to build a following.)

When the first note appeared, the administration and student leaders made an immediate show of solidarity with the students of color on the campus. The provost took the unusual step of cancelling all school activities for an hour today so this gathering could take place and so any student who wished to attend could do so without suffering any academic penalty. The turnout was impressive.

So why did I go? A couple of reasons. One is that I used to teach there, and some of my former students are among those threatened by these actions. I also went in support of my partner and her colleagues who are now having to help their students navigate these attacks just a couple of weeks away from final exams.

But I also went because one of the claims of white supremacists is that they are brave truth tellers and that all white people secretly agree with them, they’re just too afraid of the social penalties they incur if they say so out loud. The sad thing is that they’re not completely wrong. You don’t need to look any further than the last two sets of elections to see that there are plenty of white Americans who are perfectly fine with racists holding power.

This tracks with my personal experience. I’m 50 now, and I was raised in the deep south. One of my early memories from when we moved to Louisiana when I was 7 is of a newsletter from the Klan which appeared in our mailbox, and my dad’s anger as he threw it in the garbage. It wasn’t unusual to hear racial slurs in public, not even used in anger, just in casual conversation. And of course the structural racism was everywhere, but it’s only in hindsight that I recognize how toxic my childhood was.

But here’s the thing. While the situation has improved some, it’s only done so on the margins, and recent events both locally and nationally show that any advancement made toward ending or even reducing racism can easily be stripped away unless people stand up, and when I say people I mean specifically white people because it’s on us to end racism in the US.

Racism is about power, and white people still have most of it. Marginally less than they did when I was a kid in the 70’s, but still most of it. And it’s not like we earned it either. It was bestowed upon us by structures built and maintained by our ancestors, structures so old that they are part of the landscape now, more mountain than mall, more sky than skyscraper. But even though these structures may look, at first glance, to be both permanent and indestructible, they are not. Any structure can be pulled down. It takes people with power willing to do it.

Power is relative. I don’t feel powerful most of the time. I’m not famous. I’m not a boss. I don’t have a fancy job. But I can walk into a room of strangers and be seen instead of ignored. I can walk through a department store and never feel security watching me. When I speak, people don’t assume I have an agenda, and if I pretend to be an expert on a subject, no one ever questions my credentials, no matter how dumb my opinions are. That’s power, and I did nothing to earn it. I have it because these structures we all grow up in send the message that I look the part of a person with power and should be treated as such.

So if I want that to change (and I do), I have to use my power both to pull down those structures and to stand against those people who want to maintain and strengthen them. And I want to be clear about something–going to a show of solidarity or a protest in itself doesn’t do much. It has to be part of a much larger effort.

But it’s an important part all the same, because messages matter, symbols matter, public statements matter. When white supremacists say that they are brave truth tellers, it’s my job, and the job of my fellow white people, to tell them that they are liars in the loudest, most public way possible. That’s what Drake University did today, and I was proud to be there.

 

 

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November 15, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shakespeare in Translation

I decided a number of years ago that I wouldn’t pass judgment on poems or collections other than to say that they didn’t work for me for whatever reason. I try to articulate those reasons when I review books or talk about poems, but sometimes the answer is as simple as “I am not the intended audience for this work.” Sometimes what I mean is that the poems aren’t making me work enough. That’s not to say I need poems to be deliberately obscure or hermetic or syntactically disjointed (tho I don’t often mind a bit of that), but I want to engage with the poem, and that means it can’t all be spelled out for me.

So I got this book in the mail a couple of days ago, and man, am I not the audience for it. That’s not unusual–I get a lot of books because I’ve been editing at The Rumpus for almost 10 years now, and I’m basically on every mailing list there is at this point. It’s titled Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold, and it’s a first book by a British writer named James Anthony who, based on the bio in the book, doesn’t have much in the way of formal training in poetry or writing. And I want to give him credit here–he did a lot of work on this project. He “translated” all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets into contemporary English, and kept the iambic pentameter and the three quatrains + closing couplet structure intact. But my problems with this work can be summed up by the description of the book on its back cover.

That third paragraph starts “This collection of masterful reinterpretations brilliantly demystifies and breathes new life into Shakespeare’s most personal work.” And that’s a completely fair description of what this book does. For example, see if you can guess which sonnet this is from the translation:

Don’t let me say two people cannot wed
By false constraint: love really isn’t real
If, when life changes, love becomes misled,
Or when apart, one doesn’t love with zeal.

Those are the opening lines of Sonnet 116. And yep, it demystifies the hell out of that poem. And this is what I mean about not being the audience for this poem. I’m sure there are people out there who have to read Shakespeare’s sonnets and are intimidated by it because of the language or because they think they don’t know how to read poems and this could be an entryway into Shakespeare’s sonnets for them. And fortunately, this book has the Shakespeare on the facing page for comparison, so said reader could possibly compare the two and perhaps recognize where the original has more subtlety and room for interpretation. At least that’s how I hope this book will be read, if someone is going to read it at all. I’d really rather people read Shakespeare and dig the mystery.

November 4, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What’s Historic?

We live in a historic neighborhood, as in a named-on-the-National-Register-of-Historic-Places neighborhood. It’s the only neighborhood we’ve lived in during our time in Iowa. We didn’t rent or buy here because it was historic. We chose this neighborhood because it’s convenient to work and downtown, and because it’s walkable to both areas.

The big thing you quickly learn about living in a historic district is that it’s a massive pain in the ass to do any improvements to your property, at least any that are visible to the public. You can’t just get a permit to get a fence put around your backyard, for example. You have to get a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Historic Commission, which meets once a month and which will often tell you either no or yes with some very specific qualifications. You can try to bargain with them, and to their credit, sometimes they’ll even concede points depending on the specific situation, but all this takes time. Time during which your furnace and then your AC goes out and whatever money you were thinking on spending on a fence evaporates like spit on a June sidewalk.

I’ve been to a few of these meetings. They can be interesting, if you have the energy for it. The people who serve on the commission know a lot about the history of the city, of its architecture, of how the city grew and evolved, and that can be fascinating to learn about. But what becomes immediately clear about their conversations and decisions is that they have a very specific notion of what historic means, and they don’t vary from it much. Maybe they have reason. I’m not even a layman when it comes to urban planning or preservation or any of those subjects, so I’m not here to challenge their practice in any way. But I do still have questions about what gets to count as historic in a neighborhood and what is disposed of.

That picture is of the lot that what is locally known as “the old Planned Parenthood building” used to sit on. It’s in this neighborhood, on the north west corner. I think it’s been mostly vacant for a while now, perhaps since we moved into the neighborhood. In the last couple of years, I think, there have been 2 or 3 projects discussed for the location, all of which involved tearing down the building and replacing it, some commercial, some residential. I was at the commission meeting for one of those, a proposal by a local union for a new Union Hall. They had preliminary plans drawn up and there was a lot of talk about facades and the desire to have the outside of the building look like what commercial buildings from the early 1900’s would have looked like.

But what struck me about the conversation was the way it started. The City Planner, in his summary about the lot, described the old Planned Parenthood building as having no historic significance. And I know what he was saying in a way. It was a fairly nondescript brick set of offices, built in 1985 according to this story about the demolition in the Des Moines Register. Nothing about it stood out or shouted “I am unique and worth preserving!” It’s the kind of building you can find almost anywhere, and I’m not particularly heartbroken that it’s gone now.

However, while the building wasn’t anything special, it’s hard to argue that it didn’t have historic significance. In the 22 years that Planned Parenthood inhabited that building, there were numerous protests against them, and the fact that the Register identifies it as the “former Planned Parenthood building” even though they’ve been gone from it since 2007 tells you how strong the association is. And given that we’re in a time where there’s a real threat that the Supreme Court of the US could overturn Roe v Wade or find more ways to chip away at the ability of women to get abortions in this country, it’s particularly important that we recognize the importance of both groups like Planned Parenthood and the places they inhabit(ed).

And it’s that division, I suppose, that got me wondering whether or not this method of historic preservation of neighborhoods is such a good thing. Because while there are a lot of very old houses in this neighborhood (ours being one of them, originally built in 1889 with the basement to prove it), there are also some older houses which were moved in from other neighborhoods, and there’s a lot of new construction meant to look like it’s older (to a pretty unconvincing degree). It would not surprise me if that kind of construction pops up on that parcel of land, honestly. And that’s fine, because neighborhoods are organic, living things. The apartment buildings from the mid-20th century which sit next to these old Victorian houses help give this neighborhood life, and more importantly, they’re evidence that this neighborhood didn’t stop evolving in 1912. (They also make it possible for the area to house people of vastly different income brackets, something that some members of the neighborhood association are less fond of than I am, but that’s another discussion.)

But there’s another reason why I’m always suspicious of what I see as attempts to preserve too much of bygone ages. For too many people in this country, the past is a hellscape where their ancestors were denied basic rights of autonomy as human beings. When this house was built, women in most parts of this country couldn’t own property on their own and couldn’t vote. Black men had the right to vote in theory, but Jim Crow laws made it a practical impossibility, and segregation was the law of the land. Chinese immigrants weren’t allowed to naturalize and become citizens (though their children born in the US were automatically citizens, despite claims from certain right-wing activists and politicians that they should not be). I could list examples of this sort of thing for days, but I think I’ve made my point. History is important, but fetishizing particular time periods and privileging them over others can lead to nostalgia and a very limited and inaccurate notion of what the past was like.

I’ve experienced this already. I was raised in the south in schools that taught The Lost Cause version of the Civil War. I was taught that slavery wasn’t all that bad and that many slaves were actually happy with their lives; that the war was about tariffs and self-government and slavery was a minor issue; that Robert E Lee was the Marble Man and that Grant was a lucky drunk and a corrupt president. And architecture played a big role in that fetishization of the pre-war south. Those restored antebellum mansions with the oak trees dripping with Spanish moss were a source of pride, a symbol of a time when the South was powerful and graceful and glorious and let’s not talk about the slave quarters on the back of the property. In fact, let’s tear those down and never talk about them again and accuse anyone who does bring them up of not being able to get over the past.

I’m not suggesting that’s what’s going on here with the demolition of the old Planned Parenthood building, not by any means. Planned Parenthood has 3 locations in and around Des Moines and they’re not going anywhere despite the best efforts of right-wing activists and politicians. But I do think it’s worth re-examining just what we’re trying to preserve when we talk about historic neighborhoods and places, and not just do it because it’s old.

October 31, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Facebook Killed My Blog

It didn’t. I didn’t even kill it, though I apparently put it into a long-term coma. And maybe this isn’t a full awakening, though I think I’d like it to be.

So why snark on Facebook in the title? Because somewhere along the way, I stopped writing for myself, and for the smaller audience I had here and at my first blog, and I started performing more for social media. Like, I wrote on my blog to learn and think things out and yes, occasionally make big public statements about issues and make Jokes of Questionable Quality like I did/do on social media, but mostly that first thing. And often I would write about things that I never really expected anyone to read. I did a NaNoWriMo on my blog once, which I will never do again, but it was a really interesting experience, and I lost all that when I put this place to sleep and spent more time on social media, especially Facebook.

It’s taken a long time, but I’ve realized that Facebook particularly, and maybe social media generally, is not a place I want to write for anymore. Some of this is about ownership. I don’t like the fact that Facebook and Twitter and the rest have an ownership stake in my words and images, and that my only real recourse to get it back is to basically erase everything I’ve written in those spaces for the last decade. That’s a “you live, you learn” lesson at this point, because I don’t have the time or energy to go through it and see what’s worth keeping and what I can permanently let go of. But I can say that I’m not giving them any more of what I consider the good stuff. And eventually, maybe I won’t give them anything else at all.

That’ll be a hard final choice to make, because there are a lot of people I’ve gotten to know a little because of social media, people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, more than likely. But there comes a point where you have to decide whether the price of admission is too high, and I’m getting there.

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update here, or if anyone will be reading. I’m going to fight the urge to look at the traffic tool on the back end of WordPress because that desire to be seen is one of the things that sent me to Facebook in the first place. But I’m going to try to write semi-regularly, hopefully about ideas that interest me, poems I love, books I enjoy, and so on. I have one more post mostly planned out, and I’ll go from there.

October 29, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Sam B Spears Jr 1940 – 2014

My father died while I was in the sky between Seattle and Denver Sunday morning. He was, as all people are, complex, and my feelings for him reflect that.

He never should have survived to adulthood. He was dropped on his head at delivery, a moment he joked about his entire life, never knowing until he was in his 60s that his brain had been divided by that blow. One side of his brain was dead tissue from the first moments of his life onward, but his brain rewired itself so that no one could tell from just knowing him. Once he learned this about himself, he joked about it as well, just as he joked about his left arm crippled by childhood polio. And yet he not only survived, he thrived, becoming a husband and father, and serving as an elder in congregations wherever he lived.

We were estranged for most of the last 16 years because I left the church he loved so much, and which loved him back without reservation, but I still loved him, admired and respected him even when I disagreed with his decisions. Fortunately, I was able to talk to him, have an actual conversation with him, even though his memory was ravaged by dementia, just a couple of weeks ago, not long before he slipped into the coma that presaged his death. It means a lot to me that we were able to have some small moment of reconciliation right before the end, that I could hear him cracking the same sorts of jokes he’d made when I was a boy.

A few years ago, I wrote a poem about him, titled “Jubilate Patro,” which roughly translates to “in praise of the father.” Or rather, my father. Here’s some of that poem as a final praise of him. I hope it captures some of that complexity I mentioned above.

Jubilate Patro

For I will consider my father Sam
For he praises God in his mumbles and circular stories
For his left arm is crooked to remind him of original sin
For half his brain was cut off from blood when he was a baby
For it rewired itself
For his right arm is mighty in exchange
For with it he did not spare the rod
For he was an elder until Alzheimer’s took away his memory
For he was an accountant until Alzheimer’s took away his memory
For he praised God in his mumbles and circular stories before Alzheimer’s took his memory and thus it is a part of his soul
For he is still a storyteller even though he gets lost in his stories sometimes
For with his right arm he taught me how to snap off a curveball
For with his left arm he taught me to drive a stick shift
For with his half-brain he taught me to praise God among strangers
For he never explained football to me, but made me learn it myself
For he is taller than me even with the curve in his spine that causes him pain
For I will never know another man greater than him

For Sam Bennett Spears Jr.
Born October 3, 1940
Died March 2, 2014

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Pigtails and Pedophiles and Clueless Fratboys

Some students at Drake, where I’m an adjunct visiting assistant professor, decided to throw a “Pigtails and Pedophiles” themed party. It wasn’t a university-sanctioned event, so this isn’t a failure of institutional control. Instead, it’s just another example of how surrounded we are by sexism and rape culture. This one goes a little farther by dropping in a bit of light-hearted mocking of victims of child molestation–a group which includes me, though I didn’t have pigtails at the time–which makes it a bit more loathsome, I suppose, but honestly, we’re in the deep end of this pool already. What’s a few more inches at this point?

The clueless fratboys at Total Frat Move have no idea what the fuss is all about. In fact, they’re offended by the fact that some students (and some faculty members, like me) were offended by it.

Obviously I don’t get offended by these sorts of parties. It’s pretty annoying to me when people try to impose their beliefs on another group of people if the latter aren’t overtly or directly hurting anyone. Yes, it could be argued that this theme is “hurtful,” however it could be argued that pretty much anything is hurtful, because that’s a such a vague and subjective accusation. Those offended could also just ignore it, isn’t that what our parents told us to do when someone is annoying us? Your time and effort is best spent elsewhere, unnecessarily sensitive students of every college ever.

Oh, where to begin? How about the “not overtly or directly hurting anyone” bit? If you were a victim of sexual abuse as a child–and over 9% of children are sexually assaulted in this country, so there’s a good chance these jerks know someone who was abused, though they probably don’t know they know someone who’s been abused, because why would you confide something like that to them?–then you might find someone making a party out of a negative part of your life pretty crappy. This isn’t a case of “vague and subjective accusation.” This is a pretty clear case of “you’re mocking people who’ve been abused.” Why not have a “let’s kick a homeless person” party next week?

But it’s the other defense that really throws me.

If these students who complain about offensive fraternity parties took all their collective efforts to make a fuss about these sorts of things and instead used it to volunteer or raise money for good causes, they might almost come, like, halfway to the amount of charity work Greeks do. But yeah, the whiners are the people making their communities and the world a better place, sure.

Even if their numbers are accurate–and I have serious doubts that they are, even though I was a member of a fraternity as an undergrad and remain an alumni in good standing–they’re basically arguing that their charity work gives them carte blanche to be callous, unfeeling jerks to everyone around them. What kind of reasoning is that? Is there a standardized ratio of charity fundraising to acceptable douchebaggery? Are there multipliers depending on who you raise money for? Like there’s a one-to-one ratio of dollars to douchebag points for raising money for the library but three-to-one for cancer research?

So the guys who were throwing the party decided to change the theme to “High School Stereotypes,” which included the following description: ““Sportos, motorheads, geeks, sluts, wasteoids, righteous dudes, toolbags, jocks, stoners etc.” The Drake student who wrote the Op-Ed that got the attention of “Bacon,” a writer and content manager for Total Frat Move, pointed out that the use of “sluts” was just a transfer from one version of rape culture to another. Bacon objects, of course, so I’ll spell it out for him. Of the stereotypes on that list, only one group is identified by their sexual behavior, and it’s also the only one which is mostly aimed at young women. Bacon knows this–he was waxing rhapsodic earlier in this piece about 19 year old girls dressed in pigtails and Hello Kitty outfits. That women could conceivably belong to one or more of the other stereotypical groups doesn’t change the fact that “sluts” is aimed directly at them, and it’s meant not just as an insult, but as a way of saying to women “you are only sexual objects to us and nothing you do will change that.” That’s rape culture in action.

November 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

An essay at Literary Orphans

I’d like to thank Anna March for inviting me to participate in this project over at Literary Orphans. She asked us to write about identity, so I went with my journey from fundamentalist Christian (Jehovah’s Witness until I was 26) to atheist. Here’s an excerpt:

The biggest part of my journey might be due to a change in habits. For 26 years, I’d gone to a religious meeting three times a week, and done public preaching at least once a week. When I stopped going, it was like the ringing in my ears had stopped, but I’d grown so used to the ringing that I hadn’t noticed it was there in the first place. I started to hear other stuff for what felt like the first time. I got to be a different person without feeling like I was performing for a group of people, or more so, for an invisible Father who was watching my every move. Mind you, I wasn’t an unbeliever yet–I still bought into the idea that my parents’ beliefs might be correct and that I was giving up future eternal life in paradise in exchange for this freedom. It’s just that I was okay with the trade.

But imagine that: suddenly you have an extra 15 hours per week on average to explore yourself and this world you’ve only ever seen through a very limited and sheltered perspective. What would you do? You’d get high is what you’d do. You’d trip balls and drink until your head exploded and try to have sex with everyone and maybe you’d look for the religious experience in it all, because everything you’ve ever done has been in the context of religious experience. You’re looking for epiphany, for ecstasy (not the drug), for a way to grasp the universe in your teeth and shake it like a puppy does its favorite chew toy. And eventually you realize that church isn’t popping into your head as much anymore. You’re having these insights and revelations and maybe you’re still attributing some of that to a deity or cosmic force, but the pastor/elder/priest voice you’re used to hearing interpret this stuff is fading, and you’re doing more of the work on your own.

It’s been an interesting journey, that’s for certain, and I hope it comes across in the piece.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We’re having…

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This is how we decided to reveal the twins’ genders at our baby shower yesterday. We’re having two girls, just in case the symbols embedded in the cupcakes don’t pop out for you. We waited until the shower to tell anyone (except a select few) about the genders, which might seem backwards, since “don’t you want people to know what to buy for you?” But not really, if you know Amy and me, because we’re really not into gendered stuff at all. Sure, if it turns out that Skeletor or Ghost Rider has a thing for princess dresses and tiaras, then we’ll deal with it, but we’re not interested in leading them down that path from birth. We’re more interested in making them nerds first.

Not much chance of avoiding that, I imagine.

Now the great name selection begins in earnest, as we’re at 5 months and obviously the things we’ve been calling them thus far won’t stick post-delivery. I suppose. Skelly and GR aren’t the worst things to call kids, right?

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Good day yesterday

Woke up yesterday morning to the pleasant surprise that I’d been included on this list of poets that will make you pay attention to poetry in 2013. What made it better was seeing lots of familiar faces–as in, people who have some connection to the Rumpus (which is what I was mainly cited for)–on that list as well. My daughter appreciated that the poem they linked to was the one I wrote about her name.

Later in the day, Amy and I went to the IVF clinic for what would be–in a good way–our final visit. Here’s the latest ultrasound image of Cobrahead and Gütküttr, our little frog-monsters who are making their way toward potential humanhood.

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They’re right on track for 9 weeks old, good heartbeats, and now Amy gets to move into more traditional care. Also, the rate of miscarriage for embryos at this point drops to less than 1%, so hurrah for that.

And then the crowner: the AWP panel I proposed celebrating the 5th anniversary of The Rumpus was accepted–first time I’ve had a panel I proposed get taken–and the one I was invited to be on that deals with the use of social media to gain an audience was accepted as well. I’ve never been a two-panel person at AWP. Hell, I hadn’t even attended a panel in years until last year’s AWP, much less been on one. And one of the panels Amy was invited to be a part of made it as well.

But here’s the twist–because there has to be a twist, right? Amy’s due date is a week after the AWP conference, or two weeks before if we’re looking at the usual calendar for multiples. So who knows if either of us will even make it to the Pacific Northwest. We’re working on options.

A note about that Flavorwire list. There are some terrific writers on that list–I’ve run poems by some and reviews by others and there’s even a Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection author on there–and there are people who I haven’t gotten work from that I would dearly love to have showcased on The Rumpus as well. But it’s a really white list, and the response to some of my Twitter friends who pointed that out yesterday really illustrated what white male privilege looks like in this little corner of the world.

For instance, Michael Robbins (who was also on the list) tweeted “omg there are no nonwhite people on some list on the internet.” Read in the most generous light possible, Robbins was trying to say something about how these lists are ridiculous. And in a small way, I agree. We don’t run lists at The Rumpus and never have. Our founding editor ran a piece against them (in the form of a list) back when we first got started. They’re lazy. But I have to really stretch to get that out of Robbins’s tweet because of the tone.

It’s the dismissive “omg” and the “some list on the internet” that points to the privilege. Because it’s easy to dismiss a conversation as silly when you’re part of the group who’s always a part of it. But if you’re not part of that group, if every time you see a list that recommends people to watch in some particular field and you rarely see a face that looks like yours, then that conversation just got a lot more serious. The fact that Robbins and others could shrug off that list? That’s a privilege. But it goes farther than that. The ability to act inconsiderately in a public space and pay little or no social or professional cost for doing so is something that mostly only white males can get away with. Robbins isn’t going to have any more difficulty placing work today than he did yesterday–in fact, he’s got a reputation for being just this person, so in some ways, it seems to be working for him.

This issue of privilege extends farther, of course. I see it all the time in the political people I follow in social media. Dismissing a complaint by a minority group by saying that there are bigger issues in the world is a common white male privilege in action. You see that one all over the political spectrum, from libertarian to progressive.

And of course, there’s the white male privilege I showed off last night when I started getting retweets and favorites and new followers in (for me) droves. Because nothing I’m talking about here is original to me. I’m repeating the thoughts and arguments that women and people of color have been making for a really long time, but because I’m a white male, I’m not so easily dismissed.

I feel about this the same way I felt about being called a superdad when my now-grown daughter was 8 and I was taking her to her soccer games at 7:30 am on a Saturday. I’m only doing what I’m supposed to do. I shouldn’t get a cookie for that.

And that’s the way I feel about being inclusive in my editing choices. Of course I’m concerned about getting work from a full range of humanity. Of course I want my poetry and review section to be diverse, both in the books we review and the people we have review them. And if someone points out a place where I can do better, I listen, because I’m trying to ignore the privilege that says I don’t need to, that says I can just shrug complaints off because they don’t affect me personally or the group I’m a part of. I want no part of that if I can avoid it.

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Potential Humans

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We have two embryos maturing into what we hope will become full-fledged human beings. They’re currently as healthy as these things can be said to be–good heart rates and the proper size, etc–but we’re still a long way from babies.

We’re excited, of course. When the IVF nurse who was performing the ultrasound said “you’ve got a baby,” I almost asked her to repeat it just to be sure I’d heard it right, and when she turned the speaker on so we could hear the heartbeat, I grinned like a damned fool, clutching Amy’s hand and beaming down at her. And then a second one–both embryos had made it this far!–and we grinned even harder.

This was the first time that it’s really felt real–the pregnancy test two weeks ago was promising, but this is more solid than a voice on the other end of the phone giving us a test result. And that period between implantation and the first visible evidence that the embryo has tunneled in to the side of the uterus is a Schrodinger’s box of uncertainty (and if I’m misusing that metaphor, please remember that I’m a poet and not a physicist). Lots of morulas and blastocysts make their way into a uterus and never mature into anything more substantial. (We named the first morula we sent into what Amy has termed a “murderworld” Kobayashi, as in Kobayashi Morula. Nerds will appreciate this.)

But these two, currently named Cobrahead and Gütküttr (the better to survive in such violent and dangerous territory) are thriving, or at least are holding their own. We’ll go back in two more weeks and see if they’re still there, never taking anything for granted, because if there’s one thing that’s certain about childbirth, it’s that it’s dangerous for everyone involved. Less so for the dad. I’m not likely to die from anything in this process, but one or both of the embryos and/or Amy could, very easily. Nothing about this is safe.

So I’m excited but cautious. For now, two potential humans are in there growing, like in Alien but grosser and more terrifying. I’ll keep you posted.

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment