It was 33 degrees F at 1 am on a Friday in Nashville and I was in my largely comfortable hotel-room bed, but my weirdly feet weirdly cold and I was trying to get warm under the covers. OMG, I thought, I might have the novel coronavirus! I looked into my throat in the bathroom, tested my cough. Nothing unusual. I walked to the sliding glass doors and stared at the illuminated McDonald’s sign across the street. I was thinking about how we never allow our cities to be dark at night anymore and how that would be so so so lovely. I was thinking about how cold the sliding glass door felt on the tip of my nose and then I realized: Oh! It’s def freezing outside or near it. Let’s check the heat. But the heat was not set. The room was being blasted with cold air. Oh, I thought, that explains why my feet and body feel shivery. Twenty minutes later, the room is warm, and I have a few late-night feelings. That philosophical pillow of the mind before one drifts off.
What humans want to do is write, and make art, and play with each other, to make shelter together, to sing, to have sex, to walk beaches and woods. Humans want to create things together. We gather in what we call cities to be close to each other, to share ideas. Hyper-capitalism (NOT market economies) gets in the way of all of these things. We need to design better ways to trade and share and collaborate.
Late night feelings — catalyzed by very, very cold toes and anxiety. Sigh.
On March 7, we are presenting at the IFJP conference at Vanderbilt University. While I am solo on the mic, my collaborators Adam Marcus and Chris Falliers are with me in spirit! Here are some words. Happy to share the paper/deck with any and all — and to come out and do a little ECOPOESING with groups that are keen!!!
“The Ecopoesis Project was founded in 2018 by me and two architects, Adam Marcus and Chris Falliers, and is a multi-year sequence of collaborative, interdisciplinary think-tanks, seminars, and workshops exploring front-line concerns around ecologies, climate, and the language and spatial presence of these concepts. It is a collaboration between California College of the Arts MFA Writing Program and the CCA Architectural Ecologies Lab. Our paper for the IFJP conference details our work to date, as well as enacts a form of Ecopoesis through interactions with your questions.
“Each prototype of Ecopoesis helps us to better understand language and visual vocabularies of/for ecological contemplation and agency; messages and means of communication; and the use of speculative representation. This is a form of climate activism derived from locating an aesthetic of climate and a collaborative conversation about how this makes us feel. We see this as a counter to the facts of collapsing ecologies that bombard us each day, from realities such as enormous fires in California, where the word “October” no longer brings to mind autumn, pumpkin spice lattes, and sexy costumes, but the entire world ablaze — harsh, dry conditions ignited by aging transformers and power lines poorly maintained by our privatized electrical company, PG&E.
“We ascribe to a partnership approach in all of our Ecopoesis actions, each of which presupposes an understanding of Earth as Val Plumwood argued, “not as human property to be disposed of for purely human benefit, but as shared with nonhuman species, elements and forces which are seen as having equal tenure.” (Feminist Ecologies, Palgrave MacMillan, 2018)
I head out this week to San Antonio for the annual meeting of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. It’s an orgy of wonderful words and lovely writers — last year in Portland I think they logged 12,000 humans coming through. California College of the Arts MFA Writing will be at Booth #1604 — we are reading Tarot on March 6 – 7. I will be at the booth on March 5, before heading out the International Journal of Feminist Politics conference at Vanderbilt to talk about eco-activism and Ecopoesis.
Of course this all has the shadow of coronavirus over it — and our heads are sorta spinning by how fast this became a reality and how weirdly explosive the numbers are — cases doubled in Italy over the weekend. I read in the Times today that we all should expect to get it at some point. Then the admonishments to not touch, to wash hands, to cough into sleeves. Should I bring my N-95, which I keep stocked due to Cali fires in the autumn? Hmmm. I think that’s a hard no.
These times. These thoughts. Oh! And it’s also my birthday on March 4, and I did this really, really brave vulnerable thing and set up a few moments with some favorites — drinks with Christopher Merrill, dinner with Daniel Gumbiner, editor of The Believer, and my colleague the author Tom Barbash. I usually allow the day to pass quietly. This has been a hard 2020 to date, so decided it was a good idea to change it up.
I was sorta encouraged to do this by a friend who has been pushing me to be more authentic and vulnerable. So. Here we are. Here is where I walk, etc.
Had a massively good time talking to Jarrett Fuller on his Scratching the Surface podcast. We discussed writing, making books, teaching writing, how and why we write and why designers need to write alongside their making practice.
I was late to the show. Everyone else had already watched it. My older son who is crazy-busy in law school had watched it. So finally I watched. And while the writing and Monterey and the mystery are compelling what really slayed me was the sound track. In particular, the song “Cold Little Heart” that plays over (or is that under?) the opening credits. The singer is Michael Kiwanuka, who was born in London, and whose parents had fled to the UK from the Idi Amin regime in Uganda.
What the song brings to mind is the great soul singers, and Kiwanuka has been compared to Curtis Mayfield.
Sometimes a song arrives at just the right time and the words fill the mind in compelling ways. When I first encountered this song, I was deeply confused about a relationship. I had fallen into a bit of an entanglement with someone who then, for lack of a better word, sorta vanished one day. Not really a “ghosting” scene — more of a vibe where a layer appeared that created a distance. I did not know what was going on with him and he was not terribly forthcoming. Vague, really.
Then he re-emerged from beneath the layer and told me about how he had been deeply enthralled with someone else who turned out to be mentally unstable. How he had to break up with her. How hard the break up was. He told me about buying her $800 dinners and how she was rubbish at sex. It was weird. I listened but it took me two weeks to form a response. But he wanted to be back tight with me, he said in a sobby voice (this was a voice message) because he realized that I was one of the good people. And his new year’s resolution was to avoid what he called “sexy dangerous” people and spend more time with people like me.
Can we ever trust someone like this? Who vanishes because he has become deeply enthralled with another in a category that is so banal, almost comic book classification, ie, “sexy dangerous”? I think the answer is yes but no. Cold little heart. It chills the heart but maybe a cold heart is a safe and strong heart. I keep this person close but afar from my cold little heart. I listen to Michael Kiwanuka and he seems to get this on an almost cosmic level. Music offers this sort of cosmic connection in a way that actual humans sometimes miss.
I have moved on to other songs by Kiwanuka, particularly one that talks about how “you can’t break me down.” I wonder what happened to prompt this writing and I am grateful he wrote these songs. Solidarity.