Monday, May 5, 2008
Poets.net launched on March 24, 2008, partly in response to heavy-handed censoring on Poets & Writers Speakeasy and the poets.org forums. Both forums have banned members; in the case of Speakeasy, the members have been banned permanently.
Poets.org "unbanned" certain members, only to ban them again, this time permanently; the forum's administrators have made it very clear that these controversial members had better self-censor or be subject to permanent exile. What's really sad is that ACommoner's posts did not warrant being censor.
ACommoner was censored because he dared to tell the ugly truth about the po-biz. That's it.
Legally, these forums probably have the right to ban anyone they wish; on the other hand, both poets.org and Poets & Writers do accept government funding.
Issues regarding the code of silence surrounding anti-establishment literary ideas and information are just too important to be ignored. Some forums appear to be censoring their members for specious reasons.
Poets.net follows The Public-Forum Doctrine, thus, not censoring unpopular viewpoints, even if the admins and mods disagree, and controversial information.
New threads will be added regularly. You will be able to post whatever is on your mind on a given topic.
Temporarily, the forum is in blogger mode; threads have been started and appear under "Threads and Labels." You will be able to find a thread simply by clicking on Threads and pulling up a list and finding a thread that interests you.
If you have some ideas for additional threads, please email me, and I will add them--along with your attributed or anonymous commentary.
In some ways, the blogger format will be easier in that you will not need to join in order to post. Also, you may post anonymously; I am going to trust (for now) that posters will post their comments in a way that will promote open intellectual discussion and reserve general snark and self-promotion for the Smackdown and Shameless Self-Promotion threads.
I have temporarily disabled the captcha feature; thus, you will be able to post freely. However, if automated sp@m becomes a problem, I will have to enable captchas.
The down side of a blogger forum: you will not have access to a private message function.
So are you ready yet?
(Poets.net, a private forum, is NOT affiliated in any way with poets.org or Poets & Writers Speakeasy forums).
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Body Memoir Politic:
A Play in Ten Scenes
Jennifer Semple Siegel
One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that Mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all.
Go ask Alice
When she’s 10 feet tall.
–Grace Slick, “White Rabbit”
Go to the website.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The Queen Bee (A Playlet), by Jennifer Semple Siegel
Yet take not, oh! too deep a drink,
And in this ocean die;
Here bigger bees than you might sink,
Even bees full six feet high.
Like Pharaoh, then, you would be said
To perish in a sea of red.
–Philip Freneau, From “On a Honey Bee”
(Music. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” Lights come up. Samantha, situated dead center on stage, is encased in a yellow and black metallic cocoon. Only her head is visible. A spider web backdrop suggests that Samantha and her cocoon are snared in a web. She is obviously trapped there. Music fades.)
Samantha: (Shouts:) Pox to you all! I may not be able to move, but I am the Queen Bee. I can still make a lot of noise:
Ring around the rosie
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Nicole: (From off stage:)
Ring-a-ring o’ roses
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo, a tishoo!
We all fall down.
(Nicole enters stage right. Begins dancing all around Samantha. Pauses.)
Samantha: You again.
Nicole: (Goes behind Samantha, and puts her hand over Samantha’s mouth.) You talk too much.
(As Samantha tries to talk, her voice is garbled and muffled.)
Nicole: For once, you’re going to listen to me.
Samantha: Riffle, rumble, piffle, purple, gargle, gurgle...
Nicole: You might as well settle back and relax. Listen to me.
(Samantha’s demeanor changes. Her body goes obviously slack. Nicole takes her hand away from Samantha’s mouth.)
Nicole: You waste a lot of energy running away from me...
Samantha: That’s not true!
Samantha: You be quiet! This is my psychodrama!
Nicole: Maybe so, but, at the moment, you seem to be all tied up.
Samantha: All these little traps...
Nicole: ...Of your own making.
Samantha: I just want to control my own psychodrama.
Nicole: This may be your psychodrama, but you can’t ignore MY free will. Just because I inhabit YOUR psychodrama, I am still free to act in sync with my desires and beliefs. You can’t make me do what you want, just because YOU want me to shrivel up and go away. I’m not going anywhere, Mother. What’s more, I’m going to stick to you like a cockleburr, and if you pull me out, I will find another tender part of your psyche.
Samantha: What do you want?
Nicole: You already know the answer to that.
Samantha: Then you know I can’t give you what you want.
Samantha: Can’t. It’s not up to me.
Nicole: You’re fooling yourself. This is about you, not Nana.
Samantha: Me? No way. Nana’s dying. If you show up...
Nicole: ...If I show up at the reunion, Nana will pat my belly and ask, “So who’s the father?”
Samantha: It will kill her.
Nicole: No, it will kill YOU!
Nicole: Yeah, you’ll die of embarrassment because you think Nana will judge you for being a lousy mother.
Samantha: I wasn’t a lousy mother.
Nicole: You weren’t good, either
Samantha: I tried my best...
Nicole: She already knows you abandoned me.
Samantha: She has never understood; I didn’t have a choice. I was shriveling up inside; your dad just didn’t understand how I felt.
Nicole: You left me to fend for myself.
Samantha: But you had your dad...
Nicole: Dad’s been cool; he’s been there for me. But I wanted YOU, too. And now I want my Nana. I want to bury my face into her breast; I want her to wrap her arms around me and tell me I’m not a bad person just because I’m pregnant.
Samantha: There’s pregnant, and then there’s PREGNANT.
Nicole: I don’t expect you to understand.
Samantha: I don’t understand how you can give yourself so totally to a man who isn’t worth the snot that runs from your nose.
Nicole: I have my beliefs, you have yours, but why should that stop me from seeing my dying Nana?
Samantha: How do you know your outrageous behavior won’t kill her?
Nicole: In your eyes, my behavior may have been outrageous, but I have never lied about it. I’ve always been honest about my actions, and honest knowledge has never killed anyone, Mother. It’s the hidden stuff that smothers people to death. You, of all people, should know that, you who sniff out other people’s secrets like a bloodhound.
Samantha: That’s not...
Nicole: Please, Mother. Don’t even go there...
(Ruby, outfitted in a spider costume, enters stage left. She doesn’t pay any attention to Samantha and Nicole.)
Nicole: What’s this?
Ruby: (Appears to go out of her way to ignore Nicole’s question.)
...thrilled to the depths of their being
possessed by the [essence] of Shiva’s bliss,
[Shiva’s ascetics] danced, reddening the forest
with the shakening of their matted locks.
Praising Him, the gods surrounded the great Lord,
heaping handfuls of beautiful flowers before Him,
crushing some with the tips of their crowns
as they bowed at His feet.
Samantha: What is this?
Ruby: (Now notices Samantha and Nicole.) “Dance of Shiva.” The Hindu version of “Ring Around the Rosie.” You might as well hear the whole story, Ms. Queen Bee.
Nicole: (Going to Ruby and tapping her finger on her chest.) You always show up when I’m trying to have a serious conversation with my mother.
Ruby: (Leaps away from Nicole.) Ow!
Nicole: It’s true. All my life (Points directly at Ruby), SHE has come between us with her pathos...
Samantha: She’s my lost baby sister.
Nicole: (To Samantha:) I’m your “here-and-now” daughter. (To Ruby:) I HATE YOU.
Ruby: You cannot hate that which you do not know.
Nicole: I hate what you represent. You are a wall...
Ruby: I have never asked for this role...
Nicole: ...Between my mother and I...
Ruby: ...It’s been foisted on me due to circumstances beyond my control.
Samantha: Ruby’s right. This isn’t her fault. Maybe if you two work together...
(Nicole and Ruby glare at each other. Simultaneously, both slap their arms akimbo–in an angry, threatening manner.)
Samantha: (Struggles within her cocoon, which rattles and grinds.) Please. Help me out of this body.
(The two soften their stance.)
Ruby: (Rattles the spider web backdrop. Sighs.) Well, there goes my dinner. (Shrugging.) But we’ll never get any peace if we don’t help her out of this...
Nicole: ...Enormous body. You’re right. I’ve always hated seeing her this way, huge and conspicuous. Mounds of blubber waddling down the hall. I always cringed when Mother showed up for parents’ night at school, huffing and puffing, bumping into desks, knocking things over with her butt, squeezing her rolls of flab into a child’s desk. I just wanted to die.
Samantha: (Sadly.) I’m a prisoner of my biology.
Nicole: You are a prisoner of gluttony.
Samantha: (To Ruby:) She doesn’t understand.
Ruby: I don’t want to get involved in this discussion. Let’s just solve the problem–so we can go our separate ways.
Nicole: We need the right tools. (Exits stage left.)
Samantha: (To Ruby:) Please finish the Hindu version.
Ruby: Yes. We have unfinished business. (Dances around the stage, paralleling Nicole’s opening movements.)
...Na’rada and other skilled musicians,
their hands adorned with [lutes],
stood stock-still, not singing,...
(Nicole enters stage left, carrying two huge chisels. Hands one to Ruby, who then stops dancing and takes the chisel. Both begin chipping away at the cocoon. Nicole joins in the song.)
...not knowing what to do.
Then all His [ghouls] there in front of Him
Performed a weird and wonderful dance at speed.
All the [devotees], overexcited,
Performed all sorts of dance routines...
(Before Ruby and Nicole can recite the last line, the cocoon splits down the middle, and the two halves fall away from Samantha. As the spider web backdrop raises, a poof of smoke obscures the scene, and when the smoke clears, two very sinewy women, both with Samantha’s long red hair, one dressed in a red body stocking, the other in white, burst from the rubble and dash to the edge of center stage. They look out at the Audience. Samantha is nowhere in sight.)
Two Sinewy Women: (To Audience:) “Falling down and getting up, over and over.”
(Ruby and Nicole look all around, obviously searching for Samantha.)
Ruby: (Scrutinizing the two women.) Who are you?
Nicole: (Looking all around.) Where’s my mother?
Two Sinewy Women: She is us.
Sinewy Woman in White: (Bowing politely.) I am Goodsam, all that is good and pure in your mother.
Sinewy Woman in Red: (A suggestive striptease dance movement.) I am Badsam, all that is fun and exciting and raucous...
Nicole: (Screaming.) I want my mother!
(Music.“Flight of the Bumble Bee.”Darkness. Music fades out. Curtain.)
Please feel free to post your short play in the comment section, or email me.
Monday, February 11, 2008
by Jennifer Semple Siegel
Dear Little Sammy Cuddler,
Happy birthday! So you are 8 years old. Such a little lady, I hear. Buy something pretty (not candy) with the enclosed check. You’re my little cuddler, and I want you to be happy.
Are you still fat?
Your Nana told me she took you to Dr. Noonan for your check-up and he said you had to lose 10 lbs. by Xmas. Sweetheart, that’s only two and a half months away and you know how Santa don’t like to give presents to little fat girls. I’m sure he wants to bring you many pretty dresses but his elves don’t know how to make Lane Bryant sizes. Besides, how would Santa deliver all those big clothes?
Saw Hilda today. Remember her? She went on a crash diet last year and lost 50 lbs. in two months. Now she’s gained it all back and then some. So sad. You don’t want to be big like her. I hope you can lose that awful fat by Xmas.
Heard from your Daddy Platts yesterday.
Says he misses you and your mama a lot, but that for now it’s best he and baby Ruby move to Arkansas.
Your little sister will stay with Daddy’s mother and sister, at least for the next few months.
Well, must run. Have a brunch date with Vesta. We’re going to the pancake place. I know how you like their Pigs-in-a-Blanket. Maybe if you’re thin next summer, you can come to California and I’ll take you there. And then we can cuddle.
Love to Nana and Pappa
Love, Your Auntie.
* * * * *
No, you cannot have any more popcorn. If you want anything else, there’s celery and carrots in the fridge. I sliced them just for you. If you don’t eat them, I’ll just have to throw them out, and we can’t afford to waste good food. How many times do I have to tell you Pappa don’t make much money these days? You know what Dr. Noonan says: you got to eat vegetables and lean meat and stay away from all that butter, sugar, and starch. I don’t care what Dr. Noonan weighs. He’s a man and it don’t matter what he weighs. But you’re a girl, and men, even fat ones, don’t like fat girls. And if you don’t lose all that weight, you’ll never catch a husband. And if you get too fat, you’ll get lazy. I see it already. Your room looks like a pigsty. Why, I found all those Bing candy wrappers and sunflower seed shells everywhere. Is that how you spent your birthday money?
Of course your mama still loves you. Maybe the present got lost in the mail. These things happen sometimes. I just think it wouldn’t be a good idea to call her right now. Auntie says your mama’s been feeling a little punk lately and needs her rest.
Maybe at Christmas.
Must you kids always fight? Danny, you go sit in the swivel chair. Sammy, you wash those dishes or else. Sammy! You heard me! Danny! I’m going to send you home if you don’t stop calling your cousin names. And you, young lady, stop your whining. Danny don’t mean nothing. He’s just fooling you. You take everything so serious. And you, shut up! Sammy, get into the kitchen!
Here, I’ll dry. Oh, this towel’s soggy. Honey, hand me that one next to you. Don’t pay no mind to Danny. Boys will be boys. If he didn’t like you, he wouldn’t say nothing to you. But, you know, he’s just saying what others are thinking. Just because most people don’t say nothing doesn’t mean they don’t notice. They got eyes, you know. Don’t you want to grow up and have a nice husband and family? This pot’s got goo on it; do it over. How many times do I have to tell you about your sloppy ways? I’m just trying to raise you right. Make up for what happened to your mother. And you’re just like your mama, except she wasn’t fat. And look where it got her. Time to change the rinse water. See that soap scum on the top? You don’t want to get all of us sick, do you?
Did you take your pill yet? I don’t care if it keeps you up at night. Besides, Dr. Noonan can give you a pill to make you sleep. I’ll call him today. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT YOU TAKE THOSE PILLS. They’ll curb that monstrous appetite of yours.
Don’t forget to write Auntie the “thank you” note. Here it is, only one month until Christmas, and you haven’t even thanked her for your birthday present yet. Whatever is going to become of you?
You have to wait 20 minutes before you can eat. Even lettuce. You have to let the pill work first so you don’t go out of control. Girl, you sure could use some self-control these days. You know, Gluttony is a mortal sin. A capital sin. The worst kind. Except for lust, but you’re too young to know about that. You’ll go to Hell for sure if you don’t stop stuffing yourself. I just don’t know what to do about you. If you keep on going the way you’re going, they’ll need a derrick to carry you around. Tsk, tsk.
Take your pill; eat your lettuce; don’t wear that–it’s too tight–your belly hangs out; drink your water; no, you can’t have any pop, it’s pure sugar; don’t jiggle your butt like that; do you really think those yellow pants look good on you?; if you insist on eating Chicken Noodle soup all the time, you’ll have to learn how to light the pilot–I’m tired of washing out the coffee pot after every other meal; you know you can’t buy a boy’s bike–because the bar might hurt your bubo–I can’t tell you how, you’re too young–no, you haven’t done nothing wrong; Dr. Noonan says you can’t eat peanut butter until you lose three more pounds; don’t fight with your cousins and don’t tattle on no one–it don’t look good; always listen to the Sisters, they know what’s best for your soul; by next year, you’ll need a girdle for sure and maybe even a bra; if Father Salvatore says no more black patent leather shoes, then he must have a good reason–how would I know, you just obey and don’t ask questions; I think it’s time you stopped sleeping with your grandpa–no, you haven’t done nothing wrong, it’s just time you start staying in your own bed at night; go to Mass; go to Confession; say a rosary; say, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take–there are four corners on my bed, there are four angels overhead–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, bless this bed that I lay on”; Jesus loves all the little children, even little chubby ones, but he likes the humble ones the best; yes, you are my favorite child–I always like the one I’m with the best; be careful around your cousins, especially Danny–no, you haven’t done nothing wrong–no, I can’t tell you what to watch for, you’re too young–just be careful; don’t eat chocolate, you’ll break out in pimples, maybe not right away, but when you get older; where on earth did you get that peanut butter cup?; for God’s sake, are you EVER going to be thin?
* * * * *
Dear Little Skinny Cuddler,
I guess you’re not so little anymore. 12 already.
I hear you’re thin again. I’m so proud of you! Now you can buy some pretty skinny dresses with the enclosed check.
I’m looking forward to your visit next summer. We’ll go to Farmer’s Market for Enchiladas and Humphrey’s Bakery for a fancy cake. Remember how much you liked Farmer’s Market? Now that you’re thin, we can enjoy nice restaurants, not that awful diet food you had to eat for three months. So don’t get fat in the next nine months. I know you can keep the weight off because your Nana says the thyroid and diet pills are working just fine. Sorry to hear about Dr. Noonan. Your Nana said it was a heart attack but I hear your new doctor is young & cute.
Watch out! (ha, ha).
Your boyfriend Kevin sounds like a very nice boy.
Does he know you like him?
Saw your mother the other day. She came out from the valley for a visit and we went to lunch at the Hungry Tiger. She eats like a bird! She’s got a new boyfriend, wonder if she’ll marry this one. Sounds nice enough, though. Sells used cars and plays horn in a jazz band where your mama used to work.
She invited me to the club on Fri. nite, but I already got a date with Rob and Randy–they’re kind of swishy, I know, but they’ve got a beautiful new home in Beverly Hills. They asked about you. Your mama looked real good, good color, and says she’s not drinking anymore. Still smokes like a stack, though. She asked about you and wonders why you don’t answer her letters. Said she was going to send you a nice birthday present.
I haven’t heard from Dean Platts, not since his mother died and his sister Vivian took in Ruby permanently. Don’t know why he and Vivian don’t answer my letters. Maybe they moved and didn’t receive my letters. I’m sure when the time is right, Nana will take you to Arkansas to see little Ruby.
Thank you for the pretty drawing. Maybe you should take some art classes.
Had Vesta, Dame, Hilda, and Jack over for dinner last week. Poor Hilda. She must weigh over 300 lbs. now. I grilled a thick juicy steak and tossed a nice big salad with homemade ranch dressing and baked some gigantic Idahos in the oven. Served with sour cream and chives. For dessert, we had New York style cheesecake with cherries. They all loved it! Got so many compliments. Wish you could have been here to enjoy it.
Donald and I are going to Vegas in two weeks. You remember Donald, don’t you? I borrowed his Cadillac one time when you were 4 and you peed all over the front seat. I was absolutely mortified! It’s a wonder he still speaks to me. You know, you never do get rid of that smell. Anyway, Donald owns part of a casino in Carson City and has to settle some business there.
So he invited me along and we’ll hit some of the big casinos and shows in Vegas. Will send you a pretty card.
Tell me what you’d like to do next summer so I can plan our itinerary. I’m planning a 6 week cruise to Australia in August and September so plan to come in June. Would you like to see the La Brea Tar Pits and Forest Lawn? I know you’ll want to go to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. I look forward to cuddling with my skinny little cuddler. Love to Nana and Pappa.
Love, Your Auntie.
* * * * *
Let’s see...36 B, 36 C, 38 A, 38 B–ah, here we are, 38 C. It is not too big. You have to buy bras that hook on the first clasp so you don’t outgrow them right away. How many times do I have to tell you that?
For God’s sake, can’t we ever go shopping without all this hassle? I’m all in. Let’s go for a snack.
Are you sure you really want those fries? Why not just a loose meat sandwich and a root beer float? I hate all that old fried stuff. Oh, okay. You’re keeping the weight off pretty good, so I guess it’s okay, just this once. I’ll just have a root beer and a loose meat with a dill slice.
I have to talk to you anyway without your Pappa around. No, you haven’t done nothing wrong, I just want to talk girl stuff with you. Soon, you’re going to be a woman, and you have to know some things, you know, about menstruation....How did you know about that, anyway? Humph, I never did like that Charlene friend of yours anyway.
Pass the ketchup.
Bought a kit for you. Comes with a booklet, a special belt, and, you know, pads. You’ll know what to do when the time comes. Just read the instructions.
Where on earth did you ever hear about tampons? Under no circumstances are you to use tampons. Because they’ll hurt your bubo, and I can’t tell you why. You’re still too young. Just do as I say.
Don’t gobble your food like a pig and do you really need that big glob of ketchup on your plate?
From: Are You EVER Going to be Thin? (and other stories). West Conshohocken(PA): Infinity Publishing, 2004. 62-70.
Copyright, Jennifer Semple Siegel
A slightly different version appeared in Sleeping with Dionysus: Women, Ecstasy and Addiction, edited by Kay Marie Porterfield. Freedom (CA): The Crossing Press, 1994. 20-25.
Please feel free to post your short story (any style) in the comment section, or email me.
(One hundred years ago, some medical authorities warned that professional seamstresses were apt to become sexually aroused by the steady rhythm, hour after hour, of the sewing machine’s foot pedals.*)
The above photograph, circa 1910-1920: sixteen horny women pose at their stations at a grubby sewing factory.
I once worked in a sewing factory--though I don’t recall becoming “sexually aroused.” I do remember being fired after one week of sewing misaligned baby sleepers, but arousal?
I don’t think so.
Winter 2004--still at work on my memoir. I set the photo aside and continue writing and then...
Must be the wind. Ignore it.
“Jennifer, listen to us!” A chorus of women.
Now I’m hearing voices?
“Who are you?”
“We’re the horny women from the sewing factory.”
Nice touch of irony.
“Go away. I’m busy.”
“We need a poet.” I feel a ghostly tap on my shoulder. “You!”
“Find someone else. I’m not a poet.”
Perhaps an occasional poet, one or two poems a year--I’d starve if I had to depend on my poetic abilities for a living.
“You must give us a voice.”
Most writers would feel honored to be chosen by fourteen ghosts for such important work, but I don’t need it right now: my memoir burns hot across the page--I mustn’t lose momentum.
“We need you.”
“Because you know.”
No fair. It’s sixteen against one.
For the next two months, I swat my tormentors away, but they, buzzing, droning bees, always return, hovering and demanding that I act as their spokeswoman.
These misinterpreted women have argued well; not only were they accused of being horny on the job, but also had to endure having bromide dropped into their drinking water--to reign in that run-amok sexuality.
But that’s all in the past, right? Women have it so much better now...
January 2005: a ten-hour transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Philadelphia. I’m a temporary captive of U.S. Airways and a tight airline seat. No laptop, my memoir inaccessible kilobytes on a CD.
The women return. “Aha!” they smirk. “Gotcha!”
No escape. I dig out scrap paper and pen; somewhere over the Atlantic, I write a first, second, and third draft, opting for free verse, wordplay, humor, and satire. Once I've created several drafts, I’m hooked.
I must revise.
Three years later, sixteen unknown women, long dead, have finally found their collective voice. “Horny Women at the Sewing Factory” will find a home on this blog.
Next post. Promise.
As writers, how often have we lamented the insidious blank screen, the dreaded writer’s block? Inspiration is a gift, even when it drops in at inconvenient times, and shouldn’t be denied. Listening to my persistent muses has paid off: a rejuvenated writing life.
My momentum hasn’t suffered at all.
Next post: the poem.
*From: Cherokee Mental Health: 100 Years of Serving Iowan’s [sic]
"Sixteen Women in Search of a Poet," Copyright 2008, Jennifer Semple Siegel
Note: Originally this essay was titled "Fourteen Women in Search of a Poet," but after I blew up the photograph, I found two more women, who seemed to be hiding from the camera. Interesting.
Please feel free to post your non-fiction prose (any style) in the comment section, or email me.