The Palimpsests of Faulkner County

For decades I have been quasi-obsessed with palimpsests both on the page and in the great “out there”. Yet, until conferring with Jack West while attending the 2018 AWP conference in Tampa, I had no idea there was an official name for what I had been seeing/feeling all this time. According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, a palimpsest is: “writing material (such as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased.” Or “something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface.” Examples of palimsests that they use are: “Canada … is a palimpsest, an overlay of classes and generations.” —Margaret Atwood and “too short a time to get to know the palimpsest of Genevan societies, let alone those of Switzerland.” —George Steiner https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/palimpsest

Palimsests exist as parchments scraped clean to write on again that still bear the original writing underneath. Perhaps this original work is only visible through scans and scientific wizardry, but it can also be as simple as crossing out the original texts and writing between the lines. Apparently a good sheet of paper was awfully hard to come by in the way back when. Or maybe it was how the ancients backed up their early drafts of saga and sacred.

They also exists in the landscape and buildings we know. Just read any issue of Archaeology and you will find something built on something else that is standing atop a village from the Bronze Age. Richard the III was buried under a car park for how long? The jungle life over grew ancient cities that are now being found only by landscape anomalies picked up using aerial reconnaissance.

Locally, in Faulkner County, there are footprints, palimpsests,  too. The irregular large lot next to the old Smith Ford building (now housing Kings Live Music) used to be the Old Conway Theater, site of many movies and Conway Community Arts productions. (Yours Truly trod the boards as “Lucy” in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and as the Gypsy Woman in Neil Simon’s, “The Good Doctor.”) It was featured in the movie, “9 30 55,” but even that didn’t save it from the wrecking ball. The building was too far gone to save, as pigeons had been roosting in the rafters for years and created a heavy flooring of guano, 9-12 inches deep in the attic. It was a fire hazard and death trap and much beloved by a generation of misfit theatre nerds that found a home.  Everything about that building is gone save its peculiar dog-legged footprint and a few ceramic tiles stuck to the brick near what was once the front entrance.

Even in the ghostly there/not there that is the realm of the palimpsest, the Old Conway Theater has its subset of memory hauntings. Segregation. Though I do not know the specific dates that racially divided every aspect of living in Conway, Arkansas, I do know that black movie goers were only allowed in the balcony. (Conway desegregated its schools in the 1965-66 school year. They combined the Pine Street Community Schools and Conway Public Schools starting with the high school and then each school year afterwards desegregating lower grades.) What does this say about us? Should the structure be mourned? No. And. Yes.

We theatre waifs and weirds re-purposed it and made it a place of the creative other. A liminal space with portals and dangers and mothers who trusted us to wander safely. It was a haven, precariously housed under tons of pigeon guano and the poops of many species. It should have been allowed to out grow its segregated past. Should its history be written about? Yes. Absolutely. All of it. The good, bad, ugly and unearthed.

 

The Form Rejection Letter Decoder Thingy

Revision, Revision, Revision! D.B.N.D. (Do Better/Never Done)

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

Form Rejection Decoder Thingy For an Easy-to-Read Version
Use the PDF link in the Blog Post

A helpful blog entry from Brevity’s managing editor Sarah Einstein. Sarah will be talking about rejection, acceptance, and writing as part of the panel “Getting Short-Form Nonfiction to Readers: A Publication Panel” on the Friday morning of AWP Seattle:

Every couple of weeks, a writer-friend sends me an email or a Facebook message with the text of a rejection letter in it, asking me to help them decode it. Most often, they want me to help them figure out how close they got to being published, which is an impossible task. I couldn’t even tell you that if it was a submission to Brevity… ultimately, either we took the piece or we didn’t. We do have tiered rejection letters. If you got our “close but not cigar” rejection, you should probably turn around and submit that…

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Thoughtful Take on Those Poor Dears Left Unseen.

86º feels like 95º ~ after a solid week of below-normal temps and delightful air, we return to the bayou-esque weight, bright sun in between giant white cloud-islands, building toward storms over the weekend ∞ While I’ve been away from the blog re-focusing on the upcoming semester, I have not abandoned all poetic endeavors. I…

via The Hardest Part is Letting Go … of Unpublished Poems — Sandy Longhorn: Myself, the Only Kangaroo among the Beauty

Sophomore

First, let me be clear that there isn’t any one instance of spontaneous combustion or workshop or instructor that has made me feel horrible about my writing. No one has said, “Liz, you are wretched. Go home.” I am fortunate to be housed in one of the most supportive writing programs in the country. (Do I have the statistics to back this up?  Heck, no, just pride.) I love the writing life and I hope I have many years left to scribble out my quirks and oddities.

My teachers are professional and demanding. None could be better for me as guides.  Rest assured, they are not a bunch of sappy do-gooders. They are highly skilled agents of D.B.N.D. (Do better/Never done.) If I put one more adverb in a poem or write another analysis in passive voice, a wooden ruler will materialize out of thin air and rap my knuckles, but good. Don’t even let me speak in the seductive language of abstractions except in sotto voce when their backs are turned.

But ugh, the times I’ve learned how far I have to go. Folks, I am in triple digits here. The challenge is most often how fast I can make the light bulb flicker on before they realize I am a fraud. (Yes, I deal with Imposter Syndrome on a daily basis.)

These are the teachable moments: When I learn there is another challenge. I am not quite there yet. When the “I like what you did here” softening the blow of “but I think this needs more development.” The duality of how far I’ve come and what I don’t know, is rough. I write a crafted sentence and then confuse the reader. It’s not so much about wanting to throw in the towel, but wondering why I thought I could jump onto this moving train like a 16 year old off to see the world?

And don’t even get me started on the things I have learned about submitting: the spring day of submission, the long summer of waiting, the failed crop of fall, and the winter of post-rejection. (Yes, I know rejection isn’t feedback. But damned if it doesn’t feel that way.)

I never anticipated my life being one protracted sophomore year.  I know the ropes…until I realize I don’t.

b and w 11 2017 -perpetual sophomore

Fragments

8/8/17

This summer I have been dealing with fragments.  Wisps.

The intentions, June 1, were lined up and plotted.  Take a summer school class outside my department to fulfill an elective, then write the rest of the summer. Write, so that I would submit in the Fall.

What happened: I took the summer school class, then needed to recuperate from it til the end of July.  It turns out that taking a truncated course outside your department is complex, rigorous, and a trip to Funland (if Funland was designed by George Romero). It made for a terse student evaluation and my eternal gratitude for a fellow classmate. (Jack, if you ever find this blog, thank you.)

After the class, the ok grade sigh of relief, I retired to my backyard with pen and paper. They sat on the glass topped patio table. I floated in the pool. (Pool-in-a-box, assembled by me and my family after it was dumped off the back of a truck and carted to the backyard.) I cleaned the pool.  I skimmed debris; flotsam and jetsam of privacy-fenced suburbia. I aerobicized in a circle, a polka-like inner orbit. There was tanning that occurred.

Fragments of lines happened.  But often not.  You can’t float notebooks or put waterwings on a pen. Electronics? Double no-no.  I would try to write in my head.  I attempted to memorize sentences. I tried to latch on to to those fragments as I scooped out leaves and scrubbed algae from sides that wibbled like firmer gelatin, stretched vinyl hide.

I listened to the life of birds; watched hawks lilt and torpedo the air. Cardinals visited, went on couples dates on the low hanging branches of crepe myrtle cafes. Once, I saw a pair hummingbirds chase a starling out of the neighbor’s ill-kept bushes that draped across the fence.

Seeping into the humid highs that August perennially signifies, ragged suspicions: my orbit was circling the drain. My summer intentions were a smattering of tattery tissue sucked out to sea.

 

I’m concerned for your academic career if you talk about this publicly

So important! Also awful: those times when I have been an auntie and the advice was not taken.

Moontime Warrior

What truths would be written if academics weren’t afraid of losing their jobs?

What truths would be written if you followed through, in practice, the type of sovereignty and decolonization you theorize in journals?

All the times I’ve heard some version of “I’m concerned about your academic career if you talk about this publicly”: that’s not concern for me.

I knew about the systems, I knew the stories about these men. We all do. We all do, because academic aunties gossip. And academic auntie gossip saves lives.

But still, I irrationally believed I was safe, or somehow exempt.

Even after, in second year, that time I got out of that ethics professor’s car, downtown, at night, in the middle of winter, and walked home rather than sit beside him after he joked that his seats recline all the way, if I was interested.

Even after, in third year, that time your fave scholar put his 50-something-year-old…

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The Stumbly Presentation, the Lost Word, and the Brain Caesura.

“It takes a certain amount of humility in order to be taught.” a mostly verbatim quote from a teacher I respect.  The meaning that I construe from this quote is that the student understands that they don’t know everything and is willing to take in new things or things at odds with what they have always thought were right. So….long pause…sigh…(squirm) I don’t know things. I am learning new things. My writing is getting better. But I don’t know as much as the student sitting next to me. How do I remain honest to the humility concept and yet cope with the desire to compare myself to that student, who may or may not subscribe to the humility?

This has been a rough week.  Projects due, papers to write, a job, a family- all mine to juggle. It’s no wonder that feelings of irrelevance, invisibility and envy creep in.  But what do you do with those nasty squids that tentacle your thoughts and make you go dark places, cold places?

Addendum: An article appeared, as if by magic, from the highly regarded Dr. Stephanie Vanderslice:  http://www.careercontessa.com/advice/get-over-impostor-syndrome/            Check it out!  She shared some wee bits of advice with this forlorn first year grad student. I am thankful to have mentors.  Hug your mentors, if appropriate. Otherwise, let your humility smile on and say thank you.

 

 

 

Dang it! What have I done?

I’ve been wracking my brain as to what this blog is about.  It is not about food or more specifically, it is not about soup. (Despite the name.)  I’ve even struggled with whether or not to use my real name. I thought Morgan L. Jimothy sounded more alluring, more masculine. But what if I wanted to name a new pet that? So I went with what I was born with, Liz Larson. At least it is honest-to-goodness true and the alliteration tarts it up a bit.

So what is this blog about? Writing, creativity, story telling, a little art, a smidge of photography, and a whole lot of trial and error.

I’ve learned how much I don’t know this past year in graduate school. I’ve gained the acquaintanceship of some pretty incredible people that I am supposed to refer to as “cohort.” They are truly the ones who give me confidence to attempt things I am uncomfortable with and tell me that it still will all be alright. We are supposed to make mistakes. My intrepid poetry professor, Sandy Longhorn, says that to me all the time. (Hey, you try to manifest a sestina or a ghazal.)

So here I go, warts and all into the breach!