A Piece of Mind Andrea Gibson’s Truce Doesn’t Disappoint
Title of Poems
Beyond The Glass Ceiling “The constant happiness is curiosity.” - Alice Munro
By Amber Kaufman
By Megan Walsh
Over the last few years, Andrea Gibson has gained popularity as a performance poet and activist through her poems about war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love and spirituality. Many of her performances have gone viral on YouTube including her poem entitled “Maybe I Need You” with over 400,000 views. Gibson has six published books of poetry with her most recent being The Madness Vase, published by Write iwmf.weebly.com Bloody Publishing. She was the first Andrea Gibson ever to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam. In October 2013, she released her sixth CD entitled Truce, proving through her beautifully intricate wordplay and painfully truthful messages that she’s still got it. She’s still tugging on our heart strings. I bought Truce right before going on an eight-hour drive home to Illinois. Being a fan of all of Gibson’s previous work, I am always floored when I read or listen to one of her poems. The CD plays on repeat for hours, turning my trip into a therapy session and a human circus at the same time. There are always those people or books or poems that have the potential to change the way that you view the world and Gibson consistently does this to me. Truce makes you uncomfortable. It makes you shake hands with your insecurities and question your previous assumptions. Whether you are listening to her heated poem, “When the Bough Breaks,” or her beautiful reflection on pets, “A Letter to My Dog Exploring the Human Condition,” she will leave you with a new outlook on the world around you. One poem can make you feel angry and empowered, frightened and awakened all at the same time. For example:
Do we really believe our need for Prozac has nothing to do with Baghdad? With Kabul? With New Orleans? With the thousands of U.S. school kids bleeding budget cuts that will never heal to fuel war tanks?
Thank god for denial. Thank god we can afford the makeup to pile upon the face of it all. Look at the pretty world. Look at all the smiling people and the sky with the missile between her teeth and a steeple through her heart and not a single star left to hold her.
And the voices of a thousand broken nations saying ‘wake me, wake me, when the American dream is over.’
Issue 5 - Women & Writing
6 December 2013
I. Days pass ever slower now while he waits for the rain Horse has been loosed from the plow to spare the thirsty plain The old man sings a soft refrain pleads the clouds with shy accost But God won’t grant a prayer in rain and leaves his breath upon the dust Stoic pine collapses bough fears spark of midnight’s train Farmer buries sheep and sow weeps upon the bloody stain Whose God could have caused such pain? His hope and grain and infant lost Envy of the stilted crane Who spreads his wings to seek the frost Whose God could have caused such pain Such reverend and neglecting ghost Close his fists and hold the rain making dirt a wicked host II. The diligent sun lumbers over the horizon pushing curious rays of pink pulling tired strands of yellow banishing shadows calling birds to song setting fire to the dew drops reaching his tendrils through curtains under doors tapping field mice on the shoulder kissing your mused curls But who wakes the sun? Who shakes him from his chilled slumber rolls him out of bed and over the skyline Who rouses him, the calm before the day?
- Andrea Gibson, “When the Bough Breaks”
In a time as confused and angry as this one, there are those who cannot find the words to convey what they are feeling. I believe that Gibson speaks for those people, using language in a way that cracks us open and exposes the beauty that is hidden under all our grime. She is a poet that will go down in history, that will bring about change, that will provide us with all the stories that we will pass down to our grandchildren and their grandchildren, that will show us what love for one another really means.
Beyond the Glass Ceiling
www.involvement.mtu.edu/organization/glassceiling President/Editor in Chief...........................................Megan Walsh Vice President/Photographer......................Katherine Baeckeroot Public Relations.....................................................Leah Humphries Secretary.................................................................Amber Kaufman Faculty Advisor.............................................................Patty Sotirin
Graduate Student Advisor.....................................Katie Snyder Writer......................................................................Jess Juntunen Writer..............................................................................Jen Pelto Writer................................................................. Josh Stuempges Writer.....................................................................Rebecca Frost Comments or Submissions? Contact email@example.com
An Interview with Dr. Beth Flynn By Amber Kaufman
In the spring of 2013, after spending more than three decades at MTU, Professor Beth Flynn delivered her final lecture and retired from her position as Professor of Reading and Composition. Throughout her career, Flynn has had dozens of essays published in magazines and journals across the country, and in 2002, she released her first book Feminism Beyond Modernism. This work, according to Flynn uncovers the ways in which feminism “occupies both rhetorical and literary spaces.” The publisher of the book said, “misunderstanding and denigration of postmodern feminism are widespread. Elizabeth Flynn’s Feminism Beyond Modernism comes to its defense in a cogent and astute manner by first distinguishing between postmodern and antimodern feminisms and then reclaiming postmodern feminism by reconfiguring its relationship to modernism.” Flynn said she first became interested in feminism in the early 60’s during her sophomore year of college. “My male instructor suggested Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which had just come out. I read it, reported on it, and reflected on it,” Flynn said. “My mother did seem to be trapped in the situation of the bored and frustrated middle class housewives Friedan described. That was probably the beginning.” Although her book was published in 2002, the writing process began in the 90’s. An article Flynn published in 1997 was essentially the book’s main argument and she admitted “once I figured that out, the rest came fairly easily. I just had to keep writing.” Flynn describes herself as one that flourishes under pressure. This theory was put to the test when her late husband fell ill and passed away in 2000. “I must have needed to concentrate on something other than that situation, and the book certainly forced me to do that,” Flynn reflected. Beth Flynn continued on page 3...
How to Write
It’s like “Falling Through the Paper” By Rebecca Frost
Apparently writing is only hard when I know other people are going to see it. I can fly through November’s National Novel Writing Month and turn out more than the “required” fifty thousand words in thirty days, no sweat, because it’s only a rough draft, and I don’t have to show it to anyone. When it comes to work that will be seen by others – academic writing, or even this essay – I run into a wall that isn’t writer’s block, exactly, but too many ideas, followed by imagining how “people” will see it. Just random people whom I’ll never meet and whose reactions I’ll never see, but still: if people are going to read it, my fingers freeze. I love writing creatively to the point where I’ve never really wanted to take a class in it, because writing advice generally makes me feel that if someone else has a list of published books, well then: something must be working out. Maybe there’s a little bit of magic in the method, but usually when I try to write the way someone else suggests, it flounders and fails. Maybe it’s the expectation: if I can only write the way this author forces himself to write, then I can write like he does. I’m freed the most when I don’t think about an eventual audience, when I’m just writing because I want to write and I don’t have to worry about sounding stupid or getting the facts wrong. I like falling into the story to find out what comes next, since my pieces are generally character-driven and I tend to put them into a situation and give them a nudge. One of my high school teachers said it best when he suggested that writing meant you had to “kick your characters in the butt and chase after them” – it’s about the only writing advice I’ve stuck to, aside from the general murmurings of “write what you want to read.” It took me a number of tries to write something worth rereading, but that’s never in the forefront of my mind when I’m actually in the writing. “Falling Through the Paper” continued on page 2...
Women of the Web(comics) By Josh Stuempges
Before the Internet came along, if you wanted to get anything published, you needed to go through a newspaper or magazine or large motion-picture company. Nowadays, the Internet has allowed artists to bypass the old barriers and present their works to the public independently. From self-published ebooks to YouTube to blogs, independent writers and artists have found a way to make their voice heard, and some of them can make a living off of their art. One of the mediums that’s seen significant growth is comics. Webcomics (comic strips published online, like XKCD) have proliferated and collectively reach a vastly larger audience than their newspaper-dwelling ancestors. Independence from periodicals has allowed webcomics to take on topics and themes that no traditional newspaper would touch. Whether they’re writing about the first feminist super-hero, the day-to-day lives of people working at an abortion clinic, or explaining the basics of lesbian sex to people who wonder “how can you have sex without a penis involved?” these women have created stories worth reading, four or more panels at a time.
The Adventures of Gyno-Star, by Rebecca Cohen:
There are a few superheroes who are female, and some of them might identify as feminists, but there’s only one whose main schtick is feminism. Gyno-Star, the feminist superhero, uses the power of making anyone experience the pain of childbirth to battle villains such as the ridiculously-chauvinist Vlad Deferens, strength-sapping Anna Rexia and Stay-At-Home Mommy Dearest with her sentient and sarcastic army of roombas. Mostly comedic, the comic pits Gyno-Star against various embodiments of institutions and cultural ideas that harm women. It updates infrequently, but several years of past strips in the archives make a visit well worth your time. Webcomics continued on page 2...
Contents Page 1
- How to Write - Women of the Web
- Writing the Colors of Possibility
From: Tech - Secret Identities
A Piece of Mind - Poets Speak
Women & Writing
Possibilities By Jess Juntunen
The year I remember believing in possibility was the third grade. I remember the crayons, the pencils, and the sound of the pencil sharpener on the wall grinding rhythmically and puffing with the smell of fresh shaved wood. I remember that I was excited for the first day of school, thinking of this fresh start, blank slate, and that anything might happen. Under the lid of my desk I carefully arranged all my utensils for learning: number 2 pencils, erasers shaped like stars, notebooks, and folders with cute photographed puppies and kitties on them. The most exciting new supply was the sacred center piece. A 64 boxed set of Crayola Crayons. It had the flip top lid, and stadium style tiers of rows of shining, pointy color possibilities. Third grade was filled with reading, writing, and illustrating the stories written for creative writing assignments from the box of crayons. In particular, I liked the names that offered qualifiers to the color represented. They were like mystical narratives woven into the colors. Full landscapes were created to hide in, with Forest Green woodlands and a shimmering Pacific Blue ocean under a Turquoise sky with its Burnt Orange sun glowing overhead. I retreated deeply into reading books, writing and drawing, wrote stories about hiding in those vistas, meeting friends, having freedom to be and do anything I could think of. A box of crayons held infinite possibilities of words, colors, smells, sounds as the wax smeared across the paper, and the pencil supplied the story line. And then somehow we had to move on from coloring crayons to penmanship and cursive writing. As that year progressed we began to put away the crayons more and more often, and even the creative writing so that we could become more serious, more prepared, for the formal years of education that were upon us. I felt sort of cheated and the few things that were shiny about school receded into the background, and the retreat from home life which it initially offered didn’t exist in the same way. The colors of my memories became foggy, muted, gray scale, or wiped clean all together. Recently, I bought my children the 64 boxed set of crayons, triumphantly holding it up like it was the biggest prize you could win at the county fair. Yet, I don’t think crayons hold the same appeal for them. My children prefer sharpies, cardboard boxes, and duct tape. My oldest writes amazing stories but prefers to illustrate in black and white. I realize that the 64 pack of crayons is my own personal possibility generating device, so I have taken to coloring, drawing, and creating again.
“Falling Through the Paper” continued from page 1 By Rebecca Frost
If you asked me to recommend a book about writing, I’d go the alternative route and tell you to check out Stephen King’s Misery. Granted, the scenario itself is one that most of us (hopefully) won’t ever experience, but main character Paul Sheldon has a lot of time to muse about the composing process, about having an idea versus getting an idea, and my favorite notion: “falling through the paper.” When Paul’s writing is going well, he falls through the hole in the paper and watches the scene unfold, almost taking dictation from his characters and their world. For me, good writing is falling through the paper, when you’re not worried about word counts, vocabulary choices, whether or not you sound stupid, or anything but the question of: “What happens next?” Even though I find myself somehow in the position of expert – I’ve been in charge of writers across the entire UP these past two Novembers – I always hesitate when people ask for advice. I also feel like sort of a jerk when I give the possible non-answer of “Do whatever works for you,” but advice can be limiting. It can make you think that you have to do this, or you must do that, and you should worry about all these elements that bog you down and keep that hole in the paper from opening. It doesn’t matter if no one else you know writes the way you do, because no one else you know is you. Whatever you have to do to get lost in the paper: that’s right. Let your editor worry about the rest.
Webcomics continued from page 1 By Josh Stuempges
With Fetus, by Emily Ansara Baines and D. Murphy: With Fetus follows the lives of the staff
at a small abortion clinic. It deals, occasionally humorously, with a myriad of heavy issues around abortion, relationships, sexuality and families. Originally proposed as a television series, the authors couldn’t find anyone willing to carry a show about such a controversial subject, so they decided to make it into a webcomic. While the subject matter alone makes this webcomic unique and worth reading, what really makes it stand out to me is the humanity in all the characters. It definitely takes a pro-choice stance, but nobody in the series, from an insensitive physician to the protesters, is depicted as a flat caricature.
DAR! and Oh Joy Sex Toy by Erika Moen: DAR! is an autobiographical comic journal that Erika
has been keeping since college. Simultaneously funny, touching, and poetic, DAR! follows Erika through college angst, career confusion, failed and successful relationships, and her struggles with gender and sexual identity. This comic is occasionally not safe for work. Oh Joy Sex Toy, on the other hand, is defi- Moen, Erika. DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary, nitely not safe for work. It playfully reviews sex toys for men and women, along with miscellaneous top- Volume Two (Portland, OR: Periscope Studio, 2010) ics such as birth control, what it’s like inside a sex club, and the neuroscience behind arousal. It updates once a week, and like all of Moen’s other works, the comic is brilliantly illustrated and distinctive. Webcomics present a spectacular array of original storytelling, moving art, and snarky humor. They’re unbounded by the need to cater to the sensibilities of anyone but the artist/author, and that freedom gives rise to stories about topics that never get touched in the more established media. The three authors I’ve mentioned are great examples of women who’ve used this artistic freedom to portray women’s issues, and they’re well worth your time. But this is only the tip of the iceberg; there’s plenty more out there! Whatever your interests are, there’s probably a webcomic out there for you.
Have an idea for Beyond the Glass Ceiling? Submit your article/artwork/creative writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We accept articles and artwork from all students and faculty from any background or experience level. Submissions are on a rolling basis.
Stories straight from the voices and thoughts of MTU students.
Unisex Pseudonyms Yield Prettier Veggies and Increased Book Sales
An Interview with Dr. Stephanie Carpenter
Like many Jennifers born in the 70s and 80s, I was never a “Jennifer” in my classroom—I was a “Jennifer H.” When there were multiple girls named Jennifer H., we were abbreviated or differentiated even further; I was often a JHH, an inclusion of my middle name. When I was fourteen, I began working as a Sandwich Artist at Subway and the employees had to write on all of the prepped food containers with the date and time and their initials. There were three JHs (not kidding): Juanita H., James H., and myself. Juanita was the long-veteran employee and thus remained a JH; James was JH2 and, when I was hired, I tried to convince my employer to let me become JH 2 (H squared—get it? Middle initial H!) but it was too similar to James’ Subway pseudonym. I had been reborn a JH3. This always felt weird. Why not just write “Jen?” It was the same number of initials, seemed less confusing, and, for the first time, I was truly the only Jennifer in the room. What I loved about the arrangement, however, was being mistaken for a seasoned JH by an employee who couldn’t keep up with the numbers. “Finally,” an employee would gush. “Someone actually cut the green peppers without leaving behind the seeds. Who did this tub? Juanita? Yeah … probably Juanita.”
“I’m trying not to think about it,” laughed Dr. Stephanie Carpenter, a recently hired creative writing and literature lecturer, when asked about her new novel. “It is a historical piece set in 1890 in a psychiatric hospital based on a hospital in Traverse City,” said Carpenter. “It is a big hospital built according to something called ‘the moral treatment’ ... the idea being that you put people who are unwell in a big, beautiful, spacious, healthful kind of institution, feed them well, make sure they get plenty of sleep, very little medication, no restraints, work-therapy—and that this would restore people to full health. It sometimes worked but not very often at all.”
I learned to love being JH3. I was no longer an anxious fourteen-year-old girl being dropped off to work by her mom everyday – I had transcended as a secret equal. My green peppers might as well have been Juanita’s green peppers. On the record, JH3 punched in and out on time. JH3 even upsold a combo to a mystery shopper and received an impersonal form letter from the regional manager. “Dear JH3,” it began, which was the name printed on the receipt that the mystery shopper likely asked to keep. The letter didn’t make me feel like a number. It made me feel like an adult. JH3 could have been anyone. It could have been Juanita; a manager; a man.
Carpenter received her Bachelor’s degree in English at Williams College. She then went on to get her MFA in fiction writing at Syracuse and her PhD in English and creative writing at the University of Missouri. “I took a couple of years off before I got my MFA and did not have a career in a writing field at all. I did not go to get an MFA because I wanted to be a professor, I just wanted to be a better writer,” said Carpenter. It was while she was at the University of Missouri and saw the variety of classes that she could teach that she became interested in becoming a professor.
By Jen Pelto
Many contemporary women write under the masked pseudonym of their initials. The most notable example is possibly J.K. Rowling, the British novelist who penned the Harry Potter series. When she began publication, her publishers demanded that she use two initials rather than “Joanne Rowling,” anticipating that young boys may not want to read a book written by a woman. She wasn’t born bearing a middle name and she invented the “K” in homage to her paternal grandmother. It’s impossible to predict how the popularity of the series might have changed if she had published under her feminine name, but after selling 400 million copies, there might be something truthful to be said about the safety of gender ambiguity in publication. Interestingly, post-Harry Potter, Rowling has begun publishing another series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. After it was determined to be Rowling in disguise, she told the media that “being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience … It has been wonderful to publish without hype and expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name” (2013). To favor gender ambiguity is to acknowledge that there is (likely subconscious among readers) still a problem with underlying sexism in our society and that women must adapt to that problem in order to “fix” it to allow their voices to be heard. I can’t knock the way it feels to be relatively anonymous. It feels great. JH3 was a powerhouse. But I always secretly felt something of a fraud. I liked that my vegetable-slicing was consistently at Juanita-Level but the young underdog in me wanted to take off her mask and point her finger at them, shouting “Aha! It was me, you fools! The whole time!” I didn’t know then how satisfying that would have felt. Happiness fact #324: It feels so much better to achieve something without the smoke and mirrors than to have been mistaken positively for being someone (or something) else.
By Megan Walsh
The novel is set at a point where the superintendent of the hospital has realized he has no control over the institution. “He is at the end of his career and so it is a disillusioning experience for him but it is something that he has to come to terms with,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter’s short fiction has appeared in Big Fiction, Crab Orchard Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, Avery, and elsewhere. But, on and off, for the last ten years, the majority of her efforts have been focused on finishing the book that her agent is currently trying to sell. “Trying to get published is a nerve-racking process,” said Carpenter. When asked about how the industry has treated her as a woman she said, “at the stage that I am at, with so many people in the same stage in their career as me, I don’t feel like I have experienced that [discrimination] yet. If I were a male writer I would imagine it wouldn’t be much different.” Although she has not personally felt any discrimination while trying to get published, she did stress the importance of being assertive as a female writer. “The male writers I have known well have generally been more assertive about self-promotion than have the female writers,” said Carpenter. “I had [in graduate school] and am still working today against a feeling that I am ‘bothering’ my writer friends by asking for their feedback.” Carpenter remained hopeful for the future of female writers and the publishing industry as a whole. “My advice to aspiring female writers is first to do the work and next to assert yourself— seek out out the support you need to make your work better and to get it out there.”
Beth Flynn continued from page 1 By Amber Kaufman
Throughout her professional career, Flynn has noticed significant advancements in women’s equality, particularly the inclusion of women in the workforce. There are, however, issues that remain. Of these, Flynn noted the underemployment and undercompensation of women as some of the most significant. She also noted the generational differences between her mother and herself, as well as herself and her own daughter. “Just as I learned through my mother’s example not to become a suburban housewife, she [Flynn’s daughter] has learned to avoid an academic career. She is a writer for the magazine Preservation which is sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She loves her job.” Although she is retired from her teaching position, Flynn hasn’t slowed down. When asked about her plans for the future, she responded, “much of my life seems to be the same except that I, thankfully, have much more time. I’m on several graduate committees and am chairing one. I belong to a book group unrelated to the university, but I’ve recently joined a group within the department that is studying Jacques Lacan’s Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. I’ve increasingly begun to focus on transnational feminisms in my work. I’m writing a book, but I can’t say much more than that right now. I’m still in the thinking stage… .”
Women & Writing edition