14 July 2014
Kendall A. Bell's poetry has been widely published in print and online, most recently in First Literary Review-East and Drown In My Own Fears. He was nominated for Sundress Publications' Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He is the author of fifteen chapbooks. His most recent chapbook is "Be Mine". He is the founder and co-editor of the online journal Chantarelle's Notebook and the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press. His website is www.kendallabell.com and his chapbooks are available through www.maverickduckpress.com. He lives in Riverside, New Jersey.
I met Kendall through my dear friend Kayla Marie Williams**, who is also a great writer. (You should check out her blog here.) Kendall's work is lovely, human, and on occasion, a little difficult to read. I don't mean that the way that you think I mean it. His poems, such as "Adalynn decides it's time to go," published in Drown in My Own Fears, punches you in the gut. You'll need to read it to see what I mean. With "Awkward Moment #1," you're right there with the speaker, in his nervousness and quasi-shame, and you can relate to that closing stanza (or, at least, I could): "Between she and the last / had been days of depression / and no fucking / and she could tell". The lack of punctuation suggests momentum, and yet there is urgency with that depression. Overall, his work packs a wallop and is worth a read and re-read. (Don't know where to begin? On his official website, check out his weekly poem. He'll even read it to you.)
His blog is full of "curmudgeon" observations (hey, he's the one who uses the term to describe himself) and offers his readers glimpses into his various interests outside of writing. Kendall has great taste in music, for instance, and likes everything from 90's alternative rock to pop and folk. (Indeed, I can always count on him to quote Veruca Salt lyrics.) Also, I must point out another intersection: my friend Kayla, who, like I said, introduced me to Kendall, is a radio DJ with WXUT and plays a lot from those genres in particular, so it's fitting that all of us have musical tastes in common as well as writing. (Check out her program Radio Alchemy, on Friday nights, 10pm-Midnight EST, on www.wxut.com [Click "Listen Now" then "HD"].)
So, in summary: You've got some talented people to check out, like, stat!
To finish this entry, I'm supposed to answer the following questions about my creative process. Typically, I don't like thinking about my work in this way. I love hearing about other writers' craft and process, but talking about my own feels uncomfortable and, actually, disingenuous, because my craft changes all the time. Not with the direction of the wind, mind you, but at least depending on what else is going on in my life, such as the classes I'm taking as a grad student, my assistantship as a grad student, physical therapy, regular therapy, whether or not there's been enough chocolate in my diet, etc. But, anyway, I'll try my best to answer thoughtfully and honestly. Here goes nothing.
1. What am I currently working on?
I'm writing more essays. Ha! No, really. I have been writing for class, blah blah, that's not what I mean. I mean, I've been trying my hand at writing social commentary in essay form. Most of it isn't quite polished (See: the essay from a month ago examining my own body image issues and confessions), so it isn't shared widely, but soon, I'd like to edit them and put them here in my blog. I'm still best at poetry, I think, so I'll continue to work on that, too.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write my poetry in character. While my work feels somewhat confessional, most of the time, it isn't about me. I'm always trying to perfect my ability to adopt a persona and monologue, but often, my pieces end up being more like dialogue, which is fine. For my chapbook, I adopted the persona of the femme fatale, only I made her out to be this pissed-off, queer murderess. Obviously, I'm not that person. Parts of me are that person, but by and large, she's a character modeled after complex, nuanced characters that came long before. But I think it's fun to explore sometimes taboo topics through creative writing. I know I'm not the only one. I'm not doing anything new. I just hope that it's as fun to read as it is fun to write.
3. Why do I write/create what I do?
It's really important for me to share and to be in conversation with other writers. It's a community, ages old, as well as global. Poems and stories are histories; they're powerful. I love participating, engaging with that collective consciousness. It's a fulfilling way to connect. Also, on a more personal note, I've always had trouble articulating myself well through utterance, and writing gives me agency. Writing is my voice.
4. How does my writing/creating process work?
My grandma told me when I was a child thinking-up stories and poems that I should keep a notebook close by for jotting down ideas. I've attempted to do that, many times, but I always abandon it. I used to have to write everything down by hand first, organize it and cross things out, before typing it up. But the digital age makes things way too easy. Self-editing is a blessing and a curse. I need to copy and paste things I'm tempted to delete into a separate file, for safe keeping. I'm vicious. I will gouge. In order to control that urge, I have to let it all out through free writing, let it simmer, and return to it later. Thus, most of my writing is private. Does that make me less of a poet, if most of my work is for myself? I do more reading than writing. And reading informs my writing, anyway, because I think it's communal (See: #3.). So, I'm a contradiction, because I think writing creates a great community, and yet I am often talking to myself, so to speak. But really, eventually, my intention is to share all of it. My blog houses unpolished work, but my journals and computer house even more unpolished work, work that is really, really unpolished. So, in sum, my work is never "done."
And on that note, I'll wrap-up this part of the tour. See you next time!
**Happy early birthday, K!
02 June 2014
I had wanted to write a list of twenty-nine little confessions about myself in time for my birthday, and I still might eventually do that, but for the past several months, I've been more interested in trying to articulate how I feel about my physical self.
I developed early, so I've had a love-hate relationship with my curves ever since I was nine years old and saw blood in my panties for the first time. I was not taught to celebrate my womanhood. I was taught to experience it as a nuisance, a necessary evil. To use more "academic" language, I had developed internalized misogyny. I hated my body, particularly my legs and ankles. I judged other women's bodies for being too thin or too fat. I performed my gender as a tom boy, preferring boys' toys like action figures to girls' toys like Barbies, even though I owned and played with both. I even had a male imaginary friend. I felt more inclined to respect patriarchal figures in my life, for good or ill. It was something that was conditioned, of course, not "innate." But I felt as though there was something wrong with my gender. I did not want to explore the trappings of femaleness. I did not want to be womanly.
In fourth grade, however, I felt slightly differently, at least for one evening. It was the night I dressed as Marilyn Monroe for Halloween. I was tall and "Amazonian," according to my grandma, wearing a size 12, with C-cup breasts. I looked too mature for Trick or Treating, and young high school boys were looking at me. I was grateful that my sister and I were accompanied by our dad. I felt strange, but I liked the modest heels I was wearing. I liked learning how to carry myself, stand taller. I liked being pretty.
Junior high was the worst; I judged my looks harshest then. I did not like being taller than my friends. I did not like being big. Changing for gym class was the worst. I was wearing undergarments meant for someone twice my age. I did not want my peers to see my woman's bra, my Just My Size panties. I felt like a freak.
Running around the gym was embarrassing, because my breasts bounced. I hated to sweat. I was made fun of for being a fat girl. I wanted to be invisible. Even now, I exercise alone, out of fear. I don't want to be seen and laughed at for my size.
In high school, I chose to wear mostly black. I did not wear dresses, and I very rarely wore shorts. I tried to focus my attention on my face. I thought that I could allow myself to think my face was pretty, even if the rest of my body was not. I wore mascara and purple lipstick, to emphasize features I liked about myself.
I started to see more variety in body type and gender expression when I went to college. And just like other privileged white girls, it was also my first encounter of feminism, then intersectional feminism. I started to read bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins and Donna Haraway. I started to use a full-length mirror to look at my whole body instead of just my face. I started to talk more with other people about their bodies. I started to add more colors to my wardrobe. I started to see myself.
And even though my feelings about my body were not necessarily contingent upon my dating experiences, dating a man who saw me as beautiful helped me in my journey, and I am still grateful for that.
Now that I am nearly a year away from my thirties, I am able to say that I have come a long way. I am a pretty woman, surrounded by other pretty people. I am attracted to a variety of body shapes and sizes and know that many people, regardless of gender, struggle with their bodies. I am active. I am tall, but not as tall as some of my friends. My feet are flat, and my ankles are wide. I am big.
Today, I went shopping for swimming suits, which is usually an uncomfortable experience for me. I did not end up buying this one-piece suit because the top portion was too small, but I took a selfie in it, for future reference. This was a size 20 Tall, but a size 22 would've fit the top half better. They were out of 22s. This is my body today. There are times when I feel sad that I did not embrace my "smaller" self, and I am still trying to lose a little weight, not for vanity but to feel more comfortable. But for now, this is me, and I look pretty.
Today, I'm no longer interested in shaming myself or others. I'm not interested in calling a thinner woman a "skinny bitch," because she's probably got issues of her own, and it isn't fair for me to add judgement to that struggle. I am no longer interested in judging women bigger than myself, because I know what it's like to be judged for being big. I am also not going to judge men for their bodies. In fact, the men I've dated have had their own experiences judging themselves for their shapes and weight. I also acknowledge that weight does not determine health. My cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc, are excellent, according to my doctor. I have digestive issues and back problems, but according to my doctor, they are not related to my weight, and aside from said issues, I am healthy.
So, in summary, I've come a long way toward accepting myself. I still have a long way to go. I still have bad days, when I feel like a whale. But those days are fewer. While I am still not the most feminine, I have come to embrace and celebrate my femininity and have to decided to perform my gender as such. I am a much happier woman at nearly-29 than I was five, ten years ago, but I still have a lot of progress to make. I look forward to what the future has in store for me, my big, pretty self.
I am not beautiful despite being fat; I am fat as well as beautiful.
24 May 2014
She tells me to reconsider the albatross. "It's not a weight," she says. "Unless it acts as an anchor in the heart." They choose a mate for life, stay in love, all without angst, without blood pressure pills.
And I am sold, with this rock forming in my chest. The language of God sounds a little bit like birdsong, and I'm swollen. I had wanted Sam to be right, with a knowing wink. Instead, I take a slug of something tame, and all my bitterness seems trite.
"Yeah, they stay together, only have one baby," she says. "Isn't that something?" I wish it was something. I'm always one sip away, one morsel away, from being satisfied.
"He still couldn't get rid of it," I finally say, and it comes across as too casual. "We aren't reconsidering why, only what, and who cares about the what?"
She looks disappointed. "I do. He could've carried any damned bird, but he was carrying an albatross. I mean, really." And I have no clue what she means, only that my cup is empty and my cigarettes are gone.
But I like it anyway.
16 April 2014
Please, leave enough room for cream. Otherwise, my cup runneth over, all over, all over my teaching clothes. Thank you.
A young man and his friend are sitting in the booth next to mine. "How old were you when you first met God?" He pours the coffee, leaving an inch of room at the top. "I think I was thirteen," the young man answers. "There was an electrical storm..."
The rain washes the coffee stain from my blouse. It's cold and steady, and I'm not in it for long, just long enough to get to my car, just long enough to know that it's all over. Thank you. Thank goodness.
15 April 2014
these silent arms around you.
The alarms that you've sounded
are all false, and here
I am, washing
dishes with my imagination.
Suddenly, I'm flung
into your dreamscape,
like a seedling.
You blew the dandelion;
you wondered where
her children scattered.
Well, I'm here,
against my will,
and all I can do
is try to hold you.
Don't take it personally
if I leave before you wake up.
14 April 2014
03 March 2014
I delete every word.
I chart-out my successes and failures, each a destination on a map. In Wyoming I left someone stranded; in Vermont, the black and white of my dreams assaulted me; in Kentucky, I found my phone, my armor. With my thoughts ablaze, I can finally address all of the reasons why I let you down. Through the stories I tell, I am as young and old as the stars.
22 February 2014
but I hate the
expressions you make
in your photographs
because you don't
those faces in real life,
Nyquil every night
I guess it means
I'm coming of age
when my brain swells
more quickly than my heart.
19 February 2014
less knowable, less explored
but don't forget me.
Forgive me: I'm present.
Here, there is water.
Here, there is a reminder
of your past, of your future,
of landing softly
and writing your name
on my cheek.
Look here, for future reference:
I am in your sky,
a female stereotype,
visited by shells but not by you
for a long, long time.
07 February 2014
from my own breath, which is
seized inside my core.
To be sure, my life is not as hard.
Bread is easy now, and
it tastes better,
but that doesn't stop the cold.
You talk to me because
you want an audience.
I am a receptacle for the trash
that comes out
of your cold, dry mouth.
The bread rises, its insides soft and hot,
its outside hard and cracked.
I crack a smile, break bread
with you, a darling, cold and frail.
I am ungrateful. That's what depression means.
It means that my throat always needs to be cleared.
It means that my voice
is a crack in the shell of ice
that separates the present from the past,
the winter from the spring.
I am always a child, cold and hungry.