What I "read" this "week"

The Office of Historical Corrections

Distractions as It Was Finally Nice Out

I am excited for the days where all I eat in one day is three slices of pizza & seven million beers & having an EVENT to go to & getting all cute but then realizing I am biking there so I am sweating & I arrive looking like a wet dog in a dress.

Distractions as But Then It Got Cold Again

Fuck off.

Distractions as But Then It Was Nice!

I planted primroses & waited for the bees.

Distractions as What the Fuck Is This Shit
CW: Anti-Asian Hatred/White Supremacy

Everything I type out of this sounds strained, canned, & performative, but oh well. We can all be better. Here I go: White Supremacy has a done a number on all of us. We are going to be untangling the effects of it, how it’s made us think & behave without even realizing it, for the rest of our lives. I mourn for the lives of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Yue, Delaina Ashely Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng. The work is never done. I want to call upon other Latines to call out Anti-Asian hatred when they see it in the form of “harmless jokes” or what have you in their family & friend groups. White Supremacy wants us to do this to each other & we can make it stop. Reflect on the ways you’ve participated in it without knowing better, reflect on how you can better stand in solidarity with the AAPI community in our home countries, to change and educate ourselves & our loved ones.

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Distractions as Here is a Playlist For the Spring

This is exactly what it sounds like.

Distractions as Hannah Rego

Hannah Rego is my friend who became my friend when we would screaming together at karaoke. They are a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. They are an MFA candidate at the University of Arizona and a founding editor of ctrl+v, a journal of collage. Their work appears in Best Small Fictions 2020, Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, Smoke and Mold, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. They are working on a book that is a research-based project about family and evolutionary history, ecology, dairy farming, tourism, militarization and probably a lot of other things.

What was your experience with books like when you were a kid?

Not to immediately invoke cancel culture, but the first book I remember 'reading' on my own (I memorized it) was Hop on Pop by D*. Seu******s himself. I loved reading aloud in class and in “phonics" class (we had this in second grade only?), I remember this exercise where we had to read ahead as fast as we could, look up from the book, and speak as much as we remembered without looking. I loved that, I wanted to win at it. I wanted to win at reading. I did- I got a bunch of AR (Accelerated Reader) points and the school gave me a Target gift card. I read every book about dragons and/or girls getting their periods. I tweeted this once, but after I got my period I thought reading was embarrassing. On the first day of middle school, the librarian set out a bunch of books for me she thought I would like but I told her I 'didn't have time to read anymore.' Once I stopped being so horny I tried to read again, but it has been difficult for me ever since, even now that I don't have a period anymore! 

Have you ever pretended to read a book to impress somebody & what was the book?

Not that I can remember- but I have a terrible memory! And so I'm always pretending I remember books and talking about them as if the lingering emotional impressions-- which are all that really stay-- are enough to make claims about the book as an object, or a bit of art, or whatever. In college everyone was always mentioning Jack Kerouac to me??? And I always found myself shitting on ~The Beats~ but I really don't remember a word of anything those dudes have written. Or even dudes (and dudettes) (and dudex) that I care about a lot more.

When is reading hard like a wall & when is it easy like pie (bad similes but continue...)

Reading is hard like a wall every day. I've realized that if I don't Need a book, it is nearly impossible for me to read it. Being in grad school has been difficult because I have to read 1-2 books a week, and I find myself re-reading the pages over and over again trying to retain a basic grasp on not just the concepts but the tone, too. So I read aloud as much as I can- and often with my partner, or your partner, hehe. Language really only reaches me on the levels of sound and feeling, I can't see images and I can't remember anything (did I say that already) so if I'm not pulled in by some strange music, or by a question I didn't have words for suddenly confronting me in a book, then I just... get high and watch Riverdale. Lately, I can only really read voice-driven fiction that I have been making you read immediately.

What do you think about the idea of the world being bad because "nobody reads"?

I think I am TRIGGERED by this question. Books, like most things, are inherently neutral, which, like most things that people make through an elaborate series of isolated processes re-translated through varying amounts of fallible brains, actually means inherently doo-doo. A lot of books are really bad. Not just literature, which is the worst- but also political stuff from bougie minds and business-oriented self-help and the DSM-5. Do you know how much information, and experience, people try to share through writing that is genuinely dangerous? I think the best stuff we could read is actively suppressed (hello CIA please let me speak my truth in this safe space), and unless we're engaged in some serious shit, like ongoing collective knowledge/propaganda/literature sharing, then a lot of what we are reading is essentially the same as... getting high and watching Riverdale.

What's the last book you read that made you feel like you didn't know anything about writing in a good way?

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans, which I made you read and I'll leave that one to you... though I did do this cool project on it for a class Ander Monson is teaching at the Little Poet's Schoole (The University of Arizona MFA) right now. Thalia Field's Bird Lovers, Backyard is tearing my brain out and rearranging it, and making me realize that in research-based poetry/documentary poetics, we can trace poetic lineage horizontally, or something. I've felt alone trying to make sense of invasive species databases and geologic time lately, but with this book I've walked straight into another person who wondered a decade ago: "Contemplations may not cause direct action, but is there anything more active than history?" The book is also about pigeons and it made me cry. 

FINALLY THE BOOK I READ…

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

Okay yes so Hannah visited from Arizona (they are fully vaccinated but we still hung out with masks on for four days before they got a negative result which I feel obligated to tell you because we all love to be cops to each other) and they were reading this while I read last week’s Mariana Enriquez’ book. They kept looking up from the book and saying WHAT THE FUCK and THIS IS FUCKING CRAZY so I had to read it??

This is a collection of short stories and a novella. The short stories are like really traditional short stories with really bizarre settings that all deal with really complex relationships?? Okay that was a bad way to put it. I don’t know. I was so blown away by these stories. I love slash hate reading stuff that makes me forget how to write but also makes me want to be a better writer. Like, I’m jealous & I realize how much work I have to do get to the place the writer is at. Not like, in a career way but in a Brain way. Evans puts her characters in not unrealistic, but still fantastical situations. For example, “Happily Ever After” is set at the gift shop inside a replica of the Titanic. A place like that doesn’t exist, but it could but if it did it would still be really weird. But also the 9/11 museum is a thing, so. “Richard of York Gave Battle in Vein,” is about a woman attending the wedding of a stranger she was once quarantined with overseas because of a bomb scare. Every setting had this fantastic HOOK that makes you read the story too fast & then all of a sudden you hit this speed bump of emotion that makes you fly through the air looking back at every moment of your life. Underneath each reality-adjacent setting, a character is mourning. Every story, except for “Boys Go to Jupiter”(which is about a white woman dealing with getting cancelled after someone posted a photo of her in a confederate flag bikini oh myGOd) has a Black woman at the center who is trying to get through the current day while dealing with her messy, complicated past. I hesitate to call the stories “of the moment” because that would imply that stories about love, racism, and personal history will fade until the next BIG THING happens & I think these stories will stick aroun forever. Evans is an absolute pro at giving us these classic, almost Shakespearan set-ups to stories. The misunderstandings are cringe-worthy, the romance makes you put your hand to your chest, the CULTURAL COMMENTARY is better than any essay I’ve ever read. Each story ends with an absolutely gut-punching poetic last line, that somehow summarizes the entire story, the entire book, but also is like, “I am a tiny bit of this and things can get even smaller or even bigger than this even!” Ugh does that make sense??? I keep saying things like, “Does that make sense?” but about having diarrhea or the fac that it’s a Sunday. It’s a Sunday, does that make sense? Hannah said something really smart about this book, which is that it shows you how racism is personal & historical & no matter what, you cannot separate the two.

here are some poems.

creams
you can literally be 38 & look & feel 22
these days & i’m happy I’ve always had something
to anchor me to life that wasn’t just getting
blitzed in an allston basement in 2012.
there’s poison in my lungs & in my gut 
i love u little poison little herb little bacteria
sometimes i am not a poet
but a conspiracy theorist living
in a bungalow with hair down to 
my ankles & no mirrors
anywhere 

day light save me!
the wind is fucking ruthless
running thru the house like a young guy w/ a message
he didn’t write breathing thru the crumbling
walls of his lungs! i like 2 think u sent me 
the vaccine that i half-lied for
from way up there
but maybe that’s 
arrogant of me also
like the idea of birds-as-ghosts
visiting humans (remember our fight?).
do u think we were made in gods image
or did we, the worms & the fish 
& the lizards & the one-eyed pigeons
& the children with their 
marvel universe backpacks, 
did we all make something that
outlasts us forever