It turns out that I’ve been pretty lucky in terms of gender and education. My three favorite grad school professors were men, and they were nothing but supportive and considerate. I turned in a poem with a lesbian theme as my second poem in one workshop and my (male) professor quickly squashed any discussion on subject matter. I was nervous as hell, and I could have hugged him. He loved my work and I loved him (in an appropriate teacher/student sort of way).

One of these favorite professors wrote a new book, so I ordered it from the library. The first section read “We were hell-bent to become poets…we drank and smoked and fucked as much as we could….We contemplated suicide when the world ignored our poems…[but] With women we were sensitive…” Do you see a problem here? I know he is self-aggrandizing and making fun of himself a little bit. However, it is clear here that women are not poets. Not once in two workshops and a bunch of thesis meetings did Professor ever hint to me that women shouldn’t be poets. He just didn’t see what he was saying as he mythologized his young experience. It’s a smaller fault, but it still sucks.

And it made me think of DP’s mentor. He was included in an email about order of the stories in DP’s book. I confess, I threw my weight around a little bit in the book-making process, not in a jerky way, I hope; but I wanted to make sure that people knew I worked in publishing so that when I said that the font on the cover looked like every education book anyone had ever published that they knew I wasn’t blowing smoke out of my ass. (Hate that term, sorry.) But when Mentor wrote back, “Not only is she a babe, but she is smart too,” I got pissed.

DP said that Mentor had said that because I had agreed with him. But I had been talking about an editorial opinion, about the sort of thing I do for a living. And being a babe (which I’m not at all, but that’s another argument) is completely irrelevant. But then one of my other favorite professors posted this essay on facebook, saying something about how he was proud to teach female essayists.

So I can’t read this book by my professor because he pisses me off. What, then, should I read next?


14 responses to “Privilege

  1. You know? I read it from male and female poets. From the point of view of men, Hemingway overdramatizers types, and lesbians of the butch variety. Specifically. Not all women, nor all men.

    • What you say makes sense. I think I was hypersensitive because of who he was. If I read that from someone else, I would have rolled my eyes and kept going. What’s interesting, though, is that my essay professor published a book that I swear I used as a guide to how to write.

  2. Oh sister, you’re in my wheelhouse this week. This is the kind of stuff that makes me nuts.

    My neighbor was recently explaining what happens when his wife is out of town: “The dog jumps up and lays on her pillow. [The dog] suddenly thinks she’s #2 in the house!”

    Um. WTF?!?!?!

  3. Really? You’re being touchy. Cougar doesn’t mind.

    Your ex-Hero was simply writing from the standpoint of his own identity. He didn’t diss you. First, he never said that women weren’t poets; you just thought he did because he was speaking from the perspective of a MALE poet. Had he been speaking from the perspective of a generic, any-sex-or-intersex poet, you would have been correct.

    Don’t you ever write from your own perspective without spelling it out in black and mashed potato?

  4. I’m not entering this debate, because as a male I’m easily slaughtered.
    Oh, fuck it. Reading what the dude said, I kinda thought it could have applied equally to the woman-poets he knew, and he was including them in it. You, Indie-Woman-Poet, were you not also sensitive with women?
    Slaughter away if you like.

    As for What Should You Read Now, I think I may have suggested Richard Flanagan’s novel, “Gould’s Book of Fish” to you before. You’re a poet, and his prose is … hmmm, if I was a poet I’d know the right word to hook you like one of Gould’s fish. But I’m no poet. Read the damn book.
    OR … yesterday they gave Richard Flanagan the Booker Prize for his latest book, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” I’ve not yet read it, but I’m yet to find a booker Prize in a cereal box. And for you, Poet, one of the central themes of the book is poetry, what it is, what it means, what it does.
    Indeed, one of the five times Flanagan wrote this book was entirely in haiku. Oh yes, he wrote this book five times, over twelve years. Sound familiar?
    The book is based on his own father’s experiences, and in Flanagan’s words, his father, “in the end, conceived the world as a poem.”
    Have fun Indie Clause.

    • Booker’s out? Missed that! Thanks for letting us know.

      Next time, Indy will be able to enter. She’ll have finished her book, and they’ll be letting Yanks participate!

    • No need to slaughter. It is a good point. However, I left out the part that was clearly about (male) masturbation.

      And the original “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” WAS haiku (Basho). I’m going to look that up now. I may be writing a thousand fucking versions of this book, but I’ve not yet thought about it in haiku. Revision technique? (kidding. But I’m buying that book soon.)

      Thank, HarryiPants!

  5. One of the things I think that also set me off was the utter cliche of the smoking, writing, drinking, fucking. If you’re writing about it as it happens in detail, then it can work. But “we were young, we drank and smoked and fucked” is just nostalgia and uninteresting nostalgia at that.

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