Saturday, June 14, 2003

Me me me memememememe

One of the advantages of writing a blog is that I can talk about me with perfect justification (who's to say I can't? yah yah! And I can be unfair if I want to!) Well, there are those who maintain that I talk of nothing else, and perhaps they are right, though I think it's unfair (well, I would, wouldn't I?): you could as easily say Aime Cesaire talked only of himself, or HD, or Pablo Neruda. That might be simply a reflection of the fact that I am, whether I like it or not, a writer who sparks off from a romantic tradition (which is not, I don't think, quite the same as being a Romantic writer). But this is by way of warning: here I am talking about me, and anyone who lucks here and feels the yawn factor gathering in their jaws can just, well, hop onto some other page.

This morning, as I was contemplating having a shower and then deciding that I could stink, I thought about all the "me's" out there. There's quite a few, and many of them don't seem to bear any relationship to the actual me who is typing these words at 11.23 am on Saturday morning. They are small mes, not big ones, these strange distorted doppelgangers: some of them I've deliberately created, just as I'm creating another me who is writing this blog. Others have been created for me, and they're the ones I generally have problems with. Mind you, that's happened all my life, just as it happens to everybody else: labels start happening the moment you are splotted out onto the delivery table and the doctor, the author(ity) if not the agent and means of your delivery, announces: "It's a girl!" And so it goes, along that long meandering road which is the creation of a self.

But I've made things more complicated for myself, for a long time now, by letting my writerly self, who is a different author of my being to my quotidian self (the one who is listening involuntarily to Smash Hits at the moment and thinking how I ought to be going to the doctor in a minute to get some drops for incipient conjunctivitis, and is momentarily invited in to jostle with the blogger me - you see how confusing it is) - by letting my writerly self wander off in a lamentable disorder in various directions, many of which are, I find, supposed to be mutually exclusive. Kris Hemensley, poet and proprietor of Collected Works, everyone's favourite bookshop and the one I never dare visit because it's always so full of desirable objects I can never escape without a pain in the wallet - well, as Kris said (when he launched The Gift at La Mama Theatre, an event which brought various disparate activities in my life together under one roof, however temporarily) - writers who range across a range of forms and genres are apt to disappear, because nobody can quite see where or why they are. So I've written operas, and I've written texts for actors, and I've written poems, both in conventional and unconventional forms, and I've written novels, literary and generic, and I've written criticism, both conventional and not, and now I'm trying to write a really popular novel. And while this permits my escape from the stifling end of each of the activities I've involved myself with, it also means I flicker in and out of view in that strange, hallucinatory world called literature, perhaps like a progressively more hysterical neon about to go on the blink. And sometimes some of these different mes collide, until I am beside myself. (I am rarely above myself and often beneath myself, but I think a democracy of mes is preferable).

Maybe lately it's even begun to confuse me. I realised a long time ago that to try to control other's perceptions of what me is or what me does is a hopeless and futile exercise. Others will see whatever they will, and for their own reasons, and sometimes what they see is somewhat unflattering and sometimes it seems to the me (who has now been to the doctor) that what is perceived is totally mistaken. This is only a problem (to me) when it begins to infect those other pure mes, those mes with the high moral valency and impeccable motives - oh, yes those, have you seen them? - those other mes start scratching, and before they know it, if they're not careful, they morph into their own reflections. And so me tries to stop them, by injecting a corrective antibiotic. And what does me do? Me invents another me. Very smart.

Why am I talking about all this? After all the bother on British Poets, in which me started morphing into a dumb monster, I've felt somewhat distressed, in the way that Is get distressed when their mes become something they don't recognise. And I've mainly been thinking about how the me that is a Woman is a real, bad problem. (Most of my mes are women, and even the ones that aren't get morphed into women because, after all, I am a woman, though I used to think naively that being a writer could let you be either if you wanted, or neither, or both at once). It's not a problem to me, you understand; it's a problem because there are all these ways women are supposed to behave, and a bunch of confused mes like me always gets it wrong. Bad me! And then I hear that I sort of ask for trouble, because of the mes I am: because I'm "successful" (yeah, right) and because I'm argumentative and outspoken (if politely so, on the whole) and mostly and especially because when I read poetry I have this "sexualised persona", which people agree is very shocking and un-intellectual, and that means that I deserve what I get. ESPECIALLY if I want to talk about as something as provocative as an EROTICS.

Sounds like I do poetry readings in fishnet stockings and a g-string. I don't remember those particular details; at the reading in question I wore a pretty sort of mediaevalish dress, which went all the way down to my ankles, though I did say a couple of rude words, and I was reading this poem called Specula, which is about the eroticism of mysticism. But perhaps me really does that: and even if me does, well, so what? Why is it a problem? Why would it license me getting attacked, and why would it mean that me couldn't write "serious" poetry, or talk in a text-only forum in a non-sexualised and sober way about poetry? I remember John James (and I've seen many other male poets do just this) walking up to a podium with a most unapologetically sexualised persona, or so it seemed to the me watching, and nobody seemed to think it was worthy of comment; rather it attracts this admiring glow, from men I think even more than women. Maybe because he's big enough to punch any such comment right in the nose, as it deserves. But what's a plus for men is, it seems, a minus for women. Unless you do the don't-mind-little-old-me routine, and have-a look-at-my-lovely-cleavage while I do this little-girl voice which won't threaten anybody, and I'm so sorry to take up this space but I'm doing my best because really I'm just a toy for y'all and me won't EAT YOU. Or maybe I really could go buy those fishnets and g-strings, although I'm a little old for that, because it fits that ideal of the whore and will make everyone more comfortable; or maybe it's just that I should find some sensible shoes and a hairy twinset and send the worst photos I can find if I am asked for a picture, so as no one can sit there and say, "she asked for it!"

Oh, I get it so wrong. It's all too little or too much.

And yeah, I'm angry.

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