Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

23 March, 2009

Facebook & the Poet David Morley

I confess that I lean heavily on Facebook to stay in touch with my friends in the world of words, politics (words), and births, deaths and marriages (words, words, words). I’m an old-timer who joined Facebook way back in the year of the Lord 2004 or thereabouts when a ruckus erupted on campus over racist statements being bandied about on the site. It is only in the last few years though that I have become a tender of the flame. I avoid the quizzes; I haven’t taken one yet. I think. Quite recently, a good friend blinked out of Facebook because she needed to get back to writing. Last month, I caught Farhard Manjoor defending his piece against Facebook-holdouts in Slate on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. I have to admit that I laughed long and hard at the cranky anti-Facebookers that crowded the show, reminding me that the desire to be anti-cult can be just as cultish as the original cult. And that is said as someone who prides herself on being the front-line of defense for The Lord of the Rings against the tinny clamor of the Harry Potter chorus.

But the reason for this post is to share my discovery of an amazing poet, artist and human being named David Morley. Not being a poet myself, except in times of deep anguish when I am known to order unnecessarily melodramatic words into lines, claim that it is poetry and even mail it hither and yon only to cringe a day later, I had been oblivious of his existence or amazing contribution to literature until I ran across him on Facebook. I don’t even remember how it was that I found him. Perhaps it was a “friend suggestion,” or just by browsing through my friends’ lists of friends. I clicked on his link for the simple reason that he looked interesting. Yes, Virginia, your profile picture is important. David’s biography tells of eighteen published works including nine collections of poetry and of his life as “a critic, anthologist, editor and scientist of partly Romani extraction.” He teaches at the University of Warwick and this is his blog.

One of the most fascinating things that came to me through discovering Morley on Facebook, was a slow art poetry trail that he had constructed at Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. The poems are written into the natural materials and are designed to remain there until they disappear. You can watch the introduction by Morley and follow the trail here.

The word-iteration of sand mandalas. The fact that my first novel contained an enormous amount of research into Romani rituals. David Morley out of the ether. Life is good. Facebook on, my friends, even with the new and not-improved version of the beast, it remains a beautiful thing.

22 March, 2009

Girls, Books, Conversations

The Rihanna & Chris Brown story has been dominating the media for some time now, and for good reason. Violence against women, particularly women within intimate relationships, still remains shrouded in contextualization and skepticism on the part of the greater society as well as legal authorities. But as I read the post on Salon’s Broadsheet regarding the PSA produced by, which depicts a female teenager being battered by her date (the video is shown below), I began to think about the fact that so many girls and women appear not to have the self-respect or skills or even desire to remove themselves from violent relationships.

Rihanna herself is reportedly back with the guy who, according to police reports, attempted to beat her head against the doors and strangle her. While PSAs such as this can highlight the ways in which violence is done to young women, although it also feeds into the macabre voyeurism which prompts us to click on links to everything from models-gone-wild to be-headings of captured human beings (I refuse to add the urls for those), I wonder how much good they can do in a pop culture – once American but now global – that does its best to discourage women from being strong, self-confident and self-respecting. Lyn Mikel Brown and Sharon Lamb wrote a book, Packaging Girlhood (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007) about the pervasive nature of social-marketing for girls and their website gives a great overview on how to counter it. Better still, their new book on packaging boyhood will be out soon and I’ll be sure to blog about it when it does. The combination of stereotypes (submissive and psychologically self-immolating for girls and dominant and physically aggressive for boys) is a Molotov cocktail of doom for society as a whole.

There is evidence to show that what truly matters are the ways in which girls are raised combined with coming-of-age ceremonies – astonishingly rare for American girls – both of which are enormous influences on the degree of self-respect they come to have as women, for their bodies and minds. I came across an interesting discussion on the issue here, in a blog post about Julia Alvarez’ book Once Upon A Quinceanera (Viking Adult, 2007). With mothers having a particularly important role in ushering their daughters from girlhood to womanhood, I thought I should also mention Deborah Tannen’s book, You’re Wearing That? (Random House, 2006) which I found to be quite useful in describing the pitfalls of American mothers and daughters in conversation as well as upbeat with regard to creating meaningful coming of age traditions. Janet Lucy’s book Moon Mother, Moon Daughter (Libri, 2003), is another user-friendly guide to creating positive space between younger and older women.

So here’s my suggestion for the day for us women: turn off the cell phones and computers and strike up inter-generational, cross-cultural, multi-religious conversations. Hold the young girls in your life close. There is more to be said and gained from growing strong women from within than can be achieved by simply showing them how strong men can knock them down with their fists.

The Books:

The Books:

On Sal Mal Lane

In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war.

A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl is a compelling map of womanhood, its desires and loyalties, set against the backdrop of beautiful, politically turbulent, Sri Lanka.