A way to describe depression without feeling dreary in too campy a way to make a poem sound strong. Today I bought an album by the Smiths and the cashier at the CD store was wearing a white David Bowie t-shirt; he told me The Queen is Dead was one of his favorite albums of all time, and I was transfigured into something validified–it feels nice, to be as cool as the young man at the CD store with long hair that touches his shoulders! Of the two ways to be wonderful—earning a master’s in English or working at the Exclusive Company–I am not sure which is more pretentious, or better.
“He was not ‘in love’ of course; it was one of those unclassified affections of which there are so many” (Woolf 104).
“[A]lready bored, Lily felt that something was lacking; Mr. Bankes felt that something was lacking. Pulling her shawl round her Mrs. Ramsey felt that something was lacking. All of them bending themselves to listen thought, ‘Pray heaven that the inside of my mind may not be exposed,’ for each thought, ‘The others are feeling this. […] Whereas, I feel nothing at all” (Woolf 94).
“The truth was that he did not enjoy family life. It was in this sort of state that one asked oneself, What does one live for? Why, one asked oneself, does one take all these pains for the human race to go on? Is it so very desirable? Are we attractive as a species? Not so very, he thought, looking at those rather untidy boys” (Woolf 89).
I drop Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse once down on my kitchen floor, typing these lines from the half of it that I’ve finished today. Ideally, it doesn’t disturb the house, but maybe I am Charles Tansley dropping his things to the chagrin of Mrs. Ramsey. Matriarch. Mrs. Ramsey reminds me of relatives of my own; I see them differently now, I think. I’m not reading To the Lighthouse for asexuality–I’m mostly reading it for enjoyment, I realized today–but I note down, anyway, portions of the text that could be read as gesturing in that direction of things. It’s not enough to write a paper on, but I fold over the corners of certain pages, anyway: they stick with me, and, if I do forget them later, I’d like to come back to them.
Virginia Woolf, I decide I want to note in my journal (and then forget to), puts every writer I’ve read, I think, to shame: the way she writes thought feels, I decide, “penetratingly insightful.” It’s a bit much as far as descriptions go, but it’s true, or feels that way today. Alternatively, we’re the same Myers-Briggs type. I keep trying to come up with metaphors to describe the manner in which she writes the human condition–she’s an oracle, I wanted to say this morning, a prophet granted from a deity sight into humanity’s collective mind. I’m agnostic–unlike Charles Tansley–but, when I think about it, I romanticize writers like Woolf, Yeats, and Wilde to the point that, in my head, they are the saints, if not deities themselves, of some pretentiously literary religion I’ve invented, unintentionally, over the years; I’ve been engaging myself in accidental sacraments since high school. Several times, I’ve piled up volumes of Wilde and set a lit candle on that cairn, praying for help with my studies; in retrospect, this wasn’t very subtle. Still, only considering my post-Lutheran agnosticism in this way now, I have questions for myself. A few of them aren’t difficult: I’ve joked with myself that, after beginning Ulysses, I became a Joycean evangelist; one day, particularly excited, after some trigger was pulled in me, about Modernist literature, I felt, walking home from a morning class, that I’d like best, with the rest of my life, to sacrifice my body to that era of art–and I sound very melodramatic, recounting these things, but, as Woolf seems to note in her writing, internal melodrama is a fact of life, and, maybe, because of that, hardly melodrama at all.
“Poor fellow!” Mrs. Ramsley says of Charles Tansley in To the Lighthouse; “[s]till,” she adds, “he had his dissertation” (104). I’ve always loved reading characters like him, individuals who would obsess over a love for some study to such a strong extent that they hardly did anything else with their lives, stayed up late and woke up early to read, Joyce, for instead, Djuna Barnes, Yeats. Balance is the thing here, but it’s nice to want to die about something, depressed as I so often can be. All of this isn’t immensely well-written, but it’s a journal entry, an exercise. Today I sat on my father’s couch and read Virginia Woolf while listening to The Queen is Dead, the Smiths, and I felt kind of exquisitely happy. I’ll look back on this entry and cringe at the sound of my language, as I always do; I’m trying, as usual, too hard to sound aesthetic, to my detriment. Today was alright; Woolf’s Myers-Briggs type is a mere letter away from my own.
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse. Harcourt Brace & Company, 1981.
The little things I mimic, as if the path to professor-becoming
lay in cardigans with their middle buttons done up.
I am letting my penmanship (or penwomanship?),
I am letting the cursive notes I write in books flatten
to near nonsense, or I am not letting myself at all–
it might be I am making myself happen, instead.
What little things do literature professors do?
I am a reverse engineer. I have begun to gesture out my thoughts
with the tips of my fingers pinched together and pointing
up towards God, as if the essential academic idiosyncrasy
were a right-shaped hand. Unless it really is–my fingers, in
this gesture, are, at once, confident, questioning, and enamored.
–May 24, 2019
I’m planning on going back to some of my old houses, this summer. The last time I saw my first house I must have been in the sixth grade, but I could still write about the feel of the floors in its foyer, if I could find the right words for it. Shiny green marble tiles squared off by grayish grout lines that tunneled just slightly below floor level, just enough to make sweeping a little difficult; dust fell into those dips so that you needed to be carve it out with the bristles of the end of a broom. It was a two-storied foyer with a gate-shaped window above the front door; behind it hung a chandelier that must have been rich-looking for a year; I’m not sure if we stopped dusting it (when my mother moved out?) or if we never dusted it in the first place. With a long enough stick, I think now, it could have been done.
I’m not sure if going back will spark instant poems in me or even make me cry; I might just find myself looking, or maybe I’ll never get back at all. I think of those old houses now, though, and I feel haunted as I never feel about anything else. What is it that I want to find in those shelters, as Thoreau might call them? I am not sure what I’d like to see more, the architecture or some feeling of myself and my being in the world ten, twelve years forgotten. I feel sad just lingering on the possibility. Still, I reach–it’s material. Or I’m selling myself short–maybe there is, stuck inside me, a hand wanting to feel the open air, touch something I’ve been brushing past for a long time now. I’m a poet–“poet”: I attempt to spin every sad thought that comes to my mind into something pleasing for my ear and satisfying for my head. I succeed, or not. I attempt again.
I got a scholarship, once, writing poems to my dead mother; I’ve never really considered the ethical implications of this. I have no qualms about sharing secrets, really–I mostly only talked about myself, and I ended on a sweeter note than the one I began with. And my mother was a romantic: now that I think of it, she seems a bit like Molly Bloom. She hated being in pictures, or she said she did, but she would’ve been immensely pleased, I think, to carry on in a poem. Something airbrushed, a mix of truths and pretty lies to make her seem fascinating but also get to some essential kind of point about her and how hard she tried to do everything, how well she did the things that she did. I’m not sure if I did these things right, but I got the scholarship, and I have time to write more poems. I’ll carve into the thick of things, find something there, or not. Maybe she’s waiting around in one of those old houses, reading Austen until I return.
—May 23, 2019
Tonight’s been a bit of a night–it’s 1am, and I just emailed my academic advisor to tell him I’d changed my list of grad schools to apply to almost entirely, and I spent this morning/afternoon at a poetry conference, and then seeing Bohemian Rhapsody with my family–I haven’t been home, really, since August, so it’s kind of wild–
Most importantly, though, I’m doing the roundup for October’s Carnival of Aces! The theme that I offered was asexuality and poetry, as both of those words and all their connotations are immensely close to my heart (and the post on that can be found here!).
Ace wrote about the experience of writing poetry as an asexual person, and also wrote a poem!
@aroaceyellspace wrote a poem about their journey to accepting their aromantic/asexual identity.
@demiandproud wrote an ace anthem~
Sennkestra wrote a collection of asexual- and aromantic-related limericks!
And, finally, @luvtheheaven wrote a wonderful piece called “Learning to See Experiences Related to Asexuality as Potentially ‘Poetic.'”
Additionally, I’ll enclose here one of the poems I’ve been working on recently, as it fits the theme:
I die in the library, drawing scared fingers over skins of books—
the place seeming all sex—
and horribly breathless I—
I think there is no meaning, and yet so many novels—
why so many novels?
I sigh dragging
thumb cross Joyce,
and, knees shivering,
I am putting my palm to my heart and can
feel the thing dancing,
a dancing drum.
And I think I could never love a man,
no never more than a book;
they are too damned everything,
and falling out into the night,
I near cry
Thank you so much to everyone who participated this month! Next month’s theme, when it’s posted, will show up on the Carnival of Aces masterpost page–which can be found here!
Hey all! This month I am hosting the Carnival of Aces, a monthly blogging carnival centered around asexuality! For more information on this project, see its masterpost on The Asexual Agenda. Tl;dr, a host provides a specific topic to be discussed, and others write blog posts or poems, make videos, etc. in response! Posts for this call for submissions can be sent to me as links in the comments below, or emailed to me at email@example.com. If you’d like me to post your response for you, send me your text/images/etc., and I can put them up here!
The theme I’ve come up with for this month’s round of the carnival (fairly self-indulgently) is asexuality and poetry! As an aro/ace/genderqueer person who also identifies as a poet, all of these identities are ones I think about frequently. There’s a fair amount of writing out there about asexuality and writing in general, but most of these dialogues have focused on prose works, and fiction, specifically.
My prompt for this month, then, is one that can be taken in several ways. Feel free to write about your experiences as an ace person who writes or reads poetry, or write an actual poem for your submission! If you’d like, share a list of recommendations of poems that resonate with your asexual identity. My aim here is to connect two subjects–asexuality and poetry–that, thus far, haven’t often been written about as two intersecting topics for conversation.
Some questions and suggestions to prompt you on your journey this month: (Feel free to stray from these suggestions and do something else!)
- Have you ever read a poem you felt could describe your asexual experience/identity? What was that like?
- Do you know of any ace poets? What are your favorite pieces of theirs?
- Have you ever tried to write a poem about being ace? How did that go?
- Is it difficult to express an identity like asexuality through poetry?
- Do you identify as an ace poet? How do these two identities intermingle within you?
- How can poetry describe asexual identity better than prose-style writing?
- Have you ever read a poem about being ace at a reading/open mic night? What was that experience like?
- Suggestion: write a poem about being ace! Or anything! Post the result, or post about how it felt to attempt writing a poem of this kind.
- Suggestion: do a video of you reading a poem! Alternatively, post an audio version on Soundcloud or Bandcamp.
To close, here are a few places I’ve found some of my favorite poems in–check them out at your leisure:
- OUT/CAST: A JOURNAL OF QUEER MIDWESTERN WRITING AND ART
- The Asexual Journal
- Crooked Arrow Press, Issue 1: Platonic Love Poems
- Analog Submission Press
I hope all of you are doing well, and happy blogging!
Written for this month’s Carnival of Aces, hosted by Demisexual and Proud. The chosen theme was the stages of coming out as asexual, based on the Cass Identity Model. Following that prompt, I’ve written a prose poem divided into parts based on each stage. Content warning for one brief allusion to sex.
By my junior year of high school I have my sexual orientation narrowed down to a strict number of options. It is a matter of figuring which one fits best. The options are straight, gay, and bisexual. I cannot be asexual–one of those heartless things to be accepted but pitied all at once; when I was in middle school, I wanted to hold hands with boys. And I am thinking of kissing girls against women’s bathroom walls. And I’ve written at least a hundred, maybe several hundred love poems.
It may just be I want to be gay–to love women sounds an awfully lovely adventure. I only started thinking about girls in the eighth grade, liked boys as early as third. One of my first poems was about a Noah boy’s good blue eyes. I don’t write about the girl Jay’s black feathers hair until junior year of high school; her aesthetic has killed me, but would I love her? What is sex? I think that I know all of these things; I do not.
Epiphany comes in true bursting fashion, although I take years to get to that one April night. I have spent years and years years staring at the bathroom ceiling. Who do I like more–girls or boys? I decide one night in April, or some other spring month; it is my junior year of high school, to Google the hell out of myself, and stare at naked pictures of cisgender men and women and transgender men and women until I have at last come to the conclusion that I am not particularly in love with anyone. I type I am not attracted to anyone in the search bar, searching. Google asks me, have you heard of asexuality? and offers a website, which sits a moment at my feet before I pick the thing up, marveling at its sides.
I find I am not a unique beast. I am not the only one. There is wildness to that discovery. I have ventured finally onto the moon and found it already inhabited. We are all on the moon. I belong to the moon. I have not found my place on the earth but the moon says hello, and I am lifting my hand to wave back.
I still am ashamed of not mooning over Benedict Cumberbatch at our always lunch table; I do not understand his draw and wish that I did; his acting has made me cry, but I disagree with his being. I do not find him pretty. I dress up as Sherlock nonetheless, messing my hair and pulling a new dollar store scarf through its own loop. I think Sherlock is asexual–I idolize him, probably, too much. But I would love to be a man like him. It is a question I have not yet figured out.
I come back to this moment again and again, the older I become. My friends always are talking about their lovers over lunch. I cannot even get myself off. I am so very uncertain.
I suppose I am okay with being ace. I am mostly here, all the time, thinking I suppose I am okay with being ace. It is largely a front of pride flag aesthetics. I suppose I am okay with being ace. But I do not know anyone else who does not want at all, not even in the romantic sense. I am not sure if I want anything at all save books. I think I am only capable of loving Patti Smith. Her words are really getting me right now.
I am forever smiling in hopes that it will one day come smooth. I will feel at home in my orientation–
and I do. I would not give my asexuality off to any other person or thing; I am fiercely committed to it. I do not want a lover. I do not want a lover. My lover is a good number of songs on a sweet album. I have no desire and I do not desire to have it. I do not need a lover to live. I do not need a lover to be a professor, raise a thing of offspring, have a home, I can have a home in my own misshapen body as dead as it so often feels. I can form comma splices. My lover is asexuality. My lover is the fact of my lack of a lover. I am in love with my lack. It is a thing I can write about.
Writing it all down–I know my asexuality has not synthesized with the rest of me. It has and it has not. I am always alternating stages of acceptance of my asexuality and it depends on the day, whether I love it or hate it. But I would not give it away. It is me although it is not and without it I would not exist although maybe I would. I have no wish to be anything but asexual. I am many things here at once although I am not proud always of all of them at any given time. My gender is an answerless question. But asexuality is an alright word. It works.
I love it. I do not love anything. I hate it. I do not hate anything save the president. I do not think these things will change.