Sunday, July 22, 2012

Muse of the Wild Girl

Hushpuppy and Fleur

Daddy says, up above the levee on the dry side, they’re afraid of the water like a bunch of babies.

When people cover the earth with concrete, they close off its secret workings, making everyone so vulnerable to the void that they have to keep moving quickly.

Fleur, in “The History of My Body” p.72

These wild girls talk straight to your heart. They talk to you as if they’ve known you all their lives, as if you are their make-believe friend, a part of their inner world. They are children of this time and of all time. They know the ways of wild creatures, plants, trees, rivers. They contemplate the workings of the universe and of the tides. They understand what’s lost when wildness is covered over by concrete, or segregated by levees. They speak directly to the wild girl in you and in me. I wanted to be Rima of the Jungle, swinging from tree to tree, speaking in the language of the birds when I was a girl.

Just listen to Hushpuppy, in the amazing film “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” directed by 28 year old Benh Zeitlin. She speaks in a lyrical six-year old voice-over. She says: “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one thing busts, even a smallest thing, the whole universe will get busted."

Of course, like the rest of us, her universe is unraveling rapidly. She lives with her Daddy in the wilds of the Louisiana bayou, in a mythical place called “The Bathtub.” She has an ecological imagination, fertilized by Miss Bathsheba, her teacher, who tells the children tales of the Aurochs, great hairy pigs with huge tusks from before the last Ice Age, who will be resurrected as the polar ice melts. Hushpuppy sees the ice caps melting, she hears the Aurochs thundering over the landscape. So do we in the movie audience—awe-struck and fearful in the presence of these threatening images. Hushpuppy knows she is just a “little piece of a big big universe.” But she wants to survive, to leave her mark so that in a million years school children will know that once “there was a Hushpuppy who lived in the Bathtub with her Daddy.” Her Daddy, however, is dying. His blood, he tells her, is eating itself. Hushpuppy, like the rest of us, has to face the unknown. Her fierce spirit gives me hope in our scary times, as the climate warms and the oceans rise. I hope you’ll meet her soon.

Fleur is another wild girl who has visited me recently. She is the first person narrator in the amazing novel by Sharon Heath, “The History of My Body.” Within the first two pages we’ve been hurled from God’s creation of the world, as in Genesis, to Fleur’s genesis—a burger and a good screw involving her father, the virulently anti-abortionist Senator and his too-young date—now a “drowning woman clutching her wine glass like a life raft.” By page two we know that Fleur’s father thinks she is autistic. Is she?

She’s weird, that’s true. She spins, whirls and flaps when she’s upset. She’s precocious, a brilliant observer of everything around her, a tireless maker of lists. She’s been reading the dictionary and encyclopedia since she was potty trained. She’s potty mouthed and wild and never stops talking. And she’s hilarious. Her caretakers include the kind but odoriferous Sister Flatulencia. Her best buddies are her grandfather and her cat Jillily. Her grandfather had a stroke and doesn’t talk. But they hang out together, looking at their tree, watching birds. Fleur worries about her grandfather’s balls. Turns out she has reason to. She, too, will lose her male protector.

Fleur’s capacity to leap from the sublime to the ridiculous and back in a heartbeat, her resilience, her intelligence, her love for the natural world and its creatures, her strenuous efforts to keep herself amused, alive, stimulated and out of the VOID are heartening signs of what our world needs. And, she has the best vocabulary for a developing girl’s private parts.  If you want to know you’ll have to read her, and become her secret friend, too.

With Hushpuppy and Fleur—and don’t forget Rima of the Jungle—maybe the wild girls will save us.

Here’s a poem of mine about the Wild Girl:


Once this was somebody’s
grandparents’ farm—sweet
as Rebecca of Sunnybrook—   
do you remember?  How she skipped
among meadows with wildflowers,   
til she was thrown
like a sheep    
to the ground,
shorn of her corn, her hay.

But she’s still here, that girl.
You’ll see her playing in the fountains
near Rotten Robbie’s Gasoline
or herding her geese by the Chinese
All-You-Can-Eat Buffet,
while cars zoom past on 680
in sight of the mountain.
You’d think she’d be dead by now—
after all the concrete that’s been poured.
But that girl is
wild as Rima— 
talks to the willows, to the birches,
laughs aloud at the ducks
who have commandeered
the community
swimming pool.

And you,
old ecstatic
of trees,  
have you forgotten
Green Mansions—that slip
of a girl who first lit
the green fire?

Talk to her—
your wild friend from beyond
give her a seat
in the camphor tree
by your study,

for she can give tongue
to the reveries of trees
and what 
that mountain

(Published in Weber, The Contemporary West Journal)

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Muse of Radio

How often does it happen that a poet and her muse get to live out a mutual fantasy?  What would a poet and her muse’s mutual fantasy look like?  Poet As Radio!  Poet as voice, chant, spoken word, with enthusiastic radio hosts inviting her to read more poems, especially the long weird ones, like “crimes of the dreamer” she so seldom gets to read aloud.  And these hosts, who asked smart questions and had actually read her work, would be particularly interested in her relationship with her muse.

This was not a dream.  It actually happened to me and the Sister from Below on a recent beautiful Saturday morning in an industrial section of San Francisco where KUSF-in-Exile hides out amidst music studios and truckers.  Delia Tramontina and Jay Thomas were the hosts of a Saturday morning show, “Poet As Radio.”  They had an uncanny knack for asking me to talk about my favorite topics: the oral and musical nature of my poetry, its influences, the tension in my work between narrative and surrealistic impulses, my pushy muse and the influence of Jungian psychology on my life and work. 

If you’re interested in any of this, you can hear the interview by clicking here.

By the way, here's a short history of why KUSF is in exile:
For 34 years, KUSF San Francisco defined free-form local radio that reflected the city’s unique heart and soul. Famous for featuring diverse cultural programs as well as new underground music, KUSF was one of the first radio stations in the U.S. to play punk rock, and also served a dozen different language groups. An irreplaceable source for community news, information, music and culture, KUSF reflected San Francisco’s diversity, earning the moniker “Your Cultural Oasis.”
The Federal Communications Commission Media Bureau ruled that the proposed sale of the KUSF 90.3 FM broadcast license from the University of San Francisco to Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN - a group controlled by the University of Southern California) could go ahead. Behind closed doors, the FCC, USF and CPRN agreed to a consent decree allowing the sale to go through in exchange for a $50,000 fine. We're as disappointed as you are that the Media Bureau ignored our arguments and held secret negotiations allowing USF and CPRN to claim they didn't knowingly violate the law.

You can help KUSF fight this travesty by generously donating to Friends of KUSF. Help restore an essential voice of the San Francisco Bay Area to the air. Any amount will benefit. You can also mail a check. Make it out to KUSF's fiscal sponsor, "Media Arts Center, San Diego," and mail it to:

San Francisco Community Radio
P.O. Box 170697
San Francisco, CA 94117-0697

Donations are tax-deductible and you will receive an acknowledgment letter confirming the donation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Review by Erel Shalit

Lakes of Memory and Burning Nights

The Sister is happy to share an excerpt from a wonderful review of adagio and lamentation by Israeli Jungian Analyst and author, Erel Shalit. The entire review will appear in the July 2012 issue of the Jung Journal.

Dr. Shalit writes, "The contrasts and the contradictions that touch the senses and deepen the feelings, creating both complexity and unity, color every line of this beautiful work." See more on his blog.

Erel Shalit is the author of several publications, including Enemy, Cripple, & Beggar: Shadows in the Hero's Path, The Cycle of LifeThe Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel and The Complex: Path of Transformation from Archetype to Ego. He is a training and supervising analyst, and past president of the Israel Society of Analytical Psychology (ISAP).