Saturday, March 11, 2006

Jessica recognized the moment when she knew that she was an artist. Mark's always wanted to be a writer and from a young age he wrote and organized his life around writing. I never had that moment where I knew "this is what I'm going to do."

I've been writing stories since I was six, and poems since high school at least. The stories were all female-centered fantasy / sci-fi epics, or else they were about ghosts. [It only now occurs to me that this may be yet another reason why Mark and I get along so well]. But I'm good at a lot of things and in the habit of being overly accommodating and flexible. I also am good at figuring out exactly what others expect or want me to do and say. After a certain point, no one was expecting me to really take writing seriously, so I pretended not to and developed all sorts of professional skills. I studied Chinese and East Asian studies with the idea that I would be a journalist. But I didn't like most of the writing done by journalists, and so I abandoned that idea. And anyway, at this point in time, my favorite book was Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky, so I was already on my way.

Even though I no longer practice, I was raised as a Baha'i, and the first poems I ever loved were Baha'i prayers and the more mystical writings like The Hidden Words, The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys, and Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. All of these writings have a lot in common with the poetry and allegories of Hafiz, Rumi, and Attar. So that's where I went next. Then to Rilke, Lorca, Paz and Elliot.

I wrote poems from about high school on. They were initially terrible love ballads in meter where things always turned out for the worst, or else they were imitations of T.S. Elliot's Preludes, or Octavio Paz. Often they were about, ahem, alienated young women in foreign places having moments of connection with an Other. Or else exotic rescue fantasies.

But I've always known that my center of gravity is not the United States. That I have no center. Being a foreigner contextualizes alienation and forces a constant reevaluation of self relative to world. Dislocation heightens texture, sensation, emotion. It changes the way one experiences time. Obviously, it's often unpleasant. And obviously, my stuggles with it aren't nearly the same as, say, a 12 year old from Honduras trying to make it across the Mexican border to rejoin her mother in LA.

But why, during my senior year of college, did I realize that I didn't love my boyfriend and didn't want to go back overseas again? In part because I met some actual writers that I liked. Staying in DC and being a writer seemed braver than either a) marrying someone and living in Virginia or 2) abusing myself in Sichuan.


Alp said...

Thanks, Lorraine! :) I think that your life's not boring, in contrast, it's interesting!
Last night, we went to Veronika's, one of our russian friend, house. Veronika, her bf,her friend, me, Rachel. It was fun! We talked alot, argued about physics, psychology, Kant, Mass, Scales...:)))) It was really late when we got out of the house, so I stayed at Rachel's place! We took Nonnie's pictures! It was fun,too :)) Now, it's 10am. I didn't go to school. I don't feel like going to school after last night :)

Jessica Smith said...

hi... i'm going to comment on this, but i'm still thinking about what i want to say...

martin is here.

K. Lorraine Graham said...


I didn't mean my reference to your post to be offhanded, only wanted to indicate that it was the reason I decided to post about it. That moment with the Kimono's is/was important.

I mean that psychological awareness is demanding and difficult. Moments of awareness, from art, people, pain are little reference points and clues.

Hi Martin!

Jessica Smith said...

right. and there are these cool moments of critical mass, like, it surely wasn't a lightning-bolt kind of moment with the kimonos. it was rather something that put everything together in a certain way. that's very vague. i had a similar sense when i first saw Duchamp
s Etant Donnes. I don't get this feeling with music. but visual art often makes me "see" things differently. in my own art, in my relation to myself, etc.

your senior year sounds sort of like mine. except that my other choice wasn't going to Sichaun. I'm glad you stayed in DC. i have still more to say, but later.

martin says hi back.

george wesley said...

The Baha'i Writings are very evocative of the poets and writers that you mention. How wonderful that thay still have a place in your heart!