Hey, Kyle --
What a shit couple of days it's been, eh? Really sorry about what happened with your poem. I didn't want you to find out for a while, at least until the end of the week, when finals are over.
As I wrote in the last post, "Gather Round" isn't my favorite of the two poems. I like "Look Both Ways" better--love the last image of the whistling coffeepots in basements. Sweet. But "Gather Round" is as good as anything else in the magazine this issue, an issue that you slaved over. I know, because I saw you slaving. And it looks fabulous.
So there are a few literal minded readers who have managed to misread your poem. The comment to my last post is a wonderful support for what you're trying to do, though. You should take it to heart, rather than what the rabble has to say.
Indeed, we project onto others our own demons. We scapegoat. We find reasons to be mad. Rage, after all, is delicious.
And we are, as a country, shockingly illiterate. I don't mean that we can't read. Lots of us can read the words on a page, one after the other, and get a sentence out of them. But few of us can actually read the nuances there, the subtext, the hidden meanings.
Why? Many of us are lazy. Fearful. Full of slithering, whispering demons looking for a way out.
My time in Mexico taught me, more than anything else, what it means to be an American, both here and abroad. How are we viewed? We're loud. We're demanding. We refuse to speak the language of the country we're visiting. We dress funny (wear shorts when its clear that no one else, no one native, is wearing them), carry expensive cameras, and tend to buy cheap trinkets from the natives, crass bling that we actually put on our heads or around our necks like DUNCE signs. We're condescending. We're negative. We say things like, "Man, Mexico sucks." We look for Burger King and McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. We drink and drink and drink and vomit and pass out.
Okay, so I'm totally stereotyping. But some of my Mexican friends used to dress in shorts and Hawaiian shirts, and wander around the Zona Rosa in Mexico City, stopping people on the street to say, in their best faux American accents, "Pear DOUGH nay, la playa?"
For them, that was the height of hilarity.
I'd come back to the States and, when I met people and told them I lived in Mexico, they'd ask: "Do you ride a burro to school? Do you have floors in your house? Do you speak Mexican?" One boy said, "Oh, yeah, I've been to Mexico. I think it was Albuquerque or something." When I explained that, no, I lived across the border, as in another country, he looked at me as if that country was Mars, and that in Mars we must spray shit mist on people when we talk to them.
So I've had an axe to grind about prejudice (I lived in AZ when they wanted to pass that racist 'English Only' bill, a bill that, as far as I know, they keep trying to get on the ballot) and ignorance since I could formulate words into lines and call them poems.
How do we, as red haired step children, bound to get beat as soon as we open our mouths, get people to listen to what we have to say?
Well, one good way is hold up a mirror and make them mad enough to want to beat us.
Rock on, woman.